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Re: Patient attitudes towards self care

Up to 9.Support self care and management
November 29. 2016
Robert Varnam

As part of Self Care Week (15-20 November 2016), PAGB commissioned a survey of the public's attitudes towards self care. The findings provide food for thought, as well as encouragement for practices and CCGs seeking to stimulate greater self care locally.


Key findings:

  • every year there are an estimated 57 million GP consultations and 3.7 million visits to A&E for self-treatable conditions, costing the NHS an estimated £2.3 billion.
  • This survey: 5,011 UK adults, asking about attitudes towards self care and managing self-treatable conditions, without the need for a visit to the GP or A&E.
  • if they understood their own NHS ‘footprint’, 80% would be more likely to seek advice from pharmacists and use over-the-counter remedies for coughs, colds and other self-treatable conditions.
  • 92% acknowledge the importance of taking responsibility for their own health in order to ease the financial burden on the NHS. 
  • when made aware of the cost of self treatable conditions to the NHS, nearly one third of those who qualify for free prescriptions (29%) said they would be willing to purchase an OTC medicine for a self-treatable condition. Considering the NHS still spent more than £83 million on prescribing 22.6 million packs of paracetamol in 2014 , behaviour shifts like this could have a significant impact on the future sustainability of our healthcare system.
  • The survey identified attitudes and misconceptions which can make it less likely that people will use self care. For exampled, 18% believed pharmacists to be less well qualified to advise on managing minor conditions, and 23% felt entitled to visit the GP simply to obtain a free prescription.

Tips for CCGs and GP practices:

  • Ensure self care is a key part of your strategy for improving the sustainability of services. Key messages likely to be important:

    • Self care is a positive option to choose.
    • Community pharmacies are easily accessible, open long hours and staffed with highly trained professionals.
    • During 2017, the summary care record is being rolled out to community pharmacies, so, with patient consent, the pharmacist will be able to know about existing conditions and medications. This will allow them to provide an even more valuable service.
    • The NHS belongs to us all, and we share responsibility for making best use of its finite resources. General practices and emergency departments are under tremendous pressure at the moment. Using self care helps everyone.
    • The NHS is still here for you. Self care is not “no care”.
  • Engage marketing expertise to increase the effectiveness of your campaigns to raise awareness of self care options.
    Develop patient and professional champions to spread self care messages locally, including through the media.
  • Commission sufficient capacity in community pharmacy minor ailments schemes to ensure that they are accessible to patients across all of your patch.
  • Work with local practices, schools, community and faith groups to ensure the whole community is aware of the options for self care.
  • Engage with local schools to teach primary aged children about appropriate help-seeking behaviour, including for acute self-limiting conditions.
  • Train GP receptionists in active signposting, so they can safely and confidently recommend self care options where appropriate.
  • Encourage clinicians to respectfully reinforce messages about self care when consulting patients who could have used it (targeted education at a relevant point like this is much more effective).

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