Self Care Nation: Self Care Attitudes and Behaviours in the UK

Making people aware of the impact of using GP and A&E services for coughs and colds is the key to NHS sustainability

  • PAGB urges people to be more aware of their NHS footprint to help secure its sustainability

  • Nearly half (46%) of people admit using GP and A&E services for minor conditions

  • Four in five would rethink which service to use, if they knew the impact on the NHS

  • 82% of people are passionate about saving the NHS

New PAGB research exploring how people use GP and A&E services shows that if they understood their own NHS ‘footprint’, 80 per cent would be more likely to seek advice from pharmacists and use over-the-counter remedies for coughs, colds and other self-treatable conditions.

The Self Care Nation report commissioned for Self Care Week 2016 (14-20 November), explores the current attitudes of 5,011 UK adults towards self care and managing self-treatable conditions, without the need for a visit to the GP or A&E.

Our research revealed that the majority of people in the UK (92 per cent) acknowledge the importance of taking responsibility for their own health in order to ease the financial burden on the NHS. However, 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.

The findings reveal that when made aware of the cost of self treatable conditions to the NHS, nearly one third of those who qualify for free prescriptions (29 per cent) 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.

A wide range of over-the-counter medicines, available from pharmacies, supermarkets and other retail outlets, can provide relief from the symptoms of many self-treatable conditions, such as colds and headaches. People who don’t feel confident in choosing an appropriate medicine for themselves can speak to a pharmacist who can provide expert advice about self care and self-treatable conditions. Pharmacists can identify when symptoms need to be assessed by a doctor and will signpost you to other NHS services (e.g.GP, Out of Hours services or A&E) as needed. Pharmacists will also provide advice and support on a range of health and wellbeing areas.

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