What is self care?
Moving along the scale, people can often take care of themselves when they have common symptoms such as sore throats, coughs etc, for example by using over-the-counter medicines. The same is true for long term conditions where people often self-manage without intervention from a health professional (DH figures state that people with long term conditions spend on average 4 hours a year with a health professional, which means the remaining 8756 hours are spent self-managing).
At the opposite end of the continuum is major trauma where responsibility for care is entirely in the hands of the healthcare professionals, until the start of recovery when self care can begin again.
The NHS can support people to self care at any point during the continuum.
Why is self care good for people?
Empowering people with the confidence and information to look after themselves when they can, and visit the GP when they need to, gives people greater control of their own health and encourages healthy behaviours that help prevent ill health in the long-term. In many cases people can take care of their minor ailments, reducing the number of GP consultations and enabling GPs to focus on caring for higher risk patients, such as those with comorbidities, the very young and elderly, managing long-term conditions and providing new services.
More cost-effective use of stretched NHS resources allows money to be spent where it’s most needed and improve health outcomes. Furthermore, increased personal responsibility around healthcare helps improve people’s health and wellbeing and better manage long-term conditions when they do develop. This will ultimately ensure the long-term sustainability of the NHS.
Find fact sheets produced by the self care forum in respect of common ailments here.