Comment: Is the NHS listening?

Published on: 10 August 2018


The best 70th birthday present for the NHS this year would be a national strategy for self care, says PAGB’s John Smith

As the nation proudly celebrates the 70th birthday of our National Health Service, PAGB is intensifying calls for a national strategy for self care to become an integral part of NHS long-term plans.  We believe our proposed recommendations, outlined in A long-term vision for self care: interim White Paper, are vital to ensure a sustainable future for our healthcare system.

The announcement of a new financial settlement for the NHS at an average 3.4 per cent over the next five years should be welcomed.  However, an additional efficiency saving of at least 1.1 per cent a year will be needed to meet the rising demand from the growing and ageing population.  The NHS may be 70, but life expectancy for both men and women is now rising far beyond that, with babies born after 2014 expected to live well into their 80s.

With the NHS at a tipping point, the health service needs more than just a cash injection to deal with pressures on services that are further exacerbated by a perfect storm of rising demand and workforce shortages.  The increased funding will certainly help but the development and implementation of a national strategy for self care is critical to create a culture of self care where people feel empowered to look after their own health and wellbeing.

It’s clear to see from the recent outpouring of admiration for the NHS how much the service and the staff who work within it mean to so many people.  It is critical we all play our part to help save it for future generations.

Community pharmacies play a central role in supporting and empowering people to take more responsibility for their own health and have the opportunity to help shift greater focus on preventive and holistic self care which should be the first port of call for an increasing and ageing population.

There are three key objectives a national self care strategy must deliver: enhanced self care, improved health literacy and a realisation of the potential role of pharmacists.  PAGB identifies a number of policies that could make a real difference, such as empowering pharmacists to write in patient records, enabling NHS 111 to refer more people to pharmacies for advice and including self care education in healthcare professional training.

To have the greatest impact, these self care policies need to be implemented in a co-ordinated way across the system.  That’s why we believe a national strategy for self care would be the best birthday present the NHS could receive this year.


This column first appeared in P3 magazine, August 2018.