Comment: Could pharmacy training be the key to empowering more people to self care?

Published on: 10 December 2018


As we approach the end of 2018, John Smith reflects on significant changes within the healthcare system and the impact on overstretched NHS services and patient care.

In the year the NHS turned 70, officials published guidance outlining prescribing restrictions on OTC medicines for self-treatable conditions, in a move designed to encourage more people to self care and reduce unnecessary pressure on the NHS. Also this year, NICE and Public Health England (PHE) recommended that OTC remedies and honey, not antibiotics, should be used first-line to treat a cough.

All this marks a fundamental shift in how people interact with NHS services when dealing with self-treatable conditions and highlights the important role community pharmacies play in helping to educate people to manage common conditions, so they feel empowered to self care. However, we believe that self care is not only the responsibility of individuals but also
healthcare professionals (HCP), who need to provide advice and information people can easily understand, to help them identify the right care for them.

That’s why, when looking ahead to the NHS’s upcoming long-term plan, PAGB is calling for self care to be included in healthcare professions’ training. This recommendation is included in our new interim White Paper, which calls for a national strategy for self care and a national objective to improve health literacy.

With an estimated 61 per cent of English working age adults misunderstanding key information related to their own health, this clear lack of knowledge can lead to inappropriate use of NHS services. Equipping pharmacists and other HCPs with the knowledge and skills to help people to self care is vital. They need to be able to confidently and clearly communicate with people.

Improving health literacy levels will also help with the complex challenges associated with the management of long-term health concerns, particularly in an ageing population.

The PAGB recommendations are set out in A long-term vision for self care: interim white paper, developed to inform discussions on the new NHS long-term plan, which recommends policies that will unlock the potential of self care.

John Smith is the chief executive of PAGB


This column first appeared in P3 magazine, December 2018.