PAGB’s Chief Executive, Michelle Riddalls, has co-signed an open letter, published in the Times today calling on the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Steve Barclay MP, to develop and implement a national self-care strategy.
Out of necessity, the Government actively encouraged self-care during the pandemic. In response, health care providers implemented new tools and processes, such as digital symptom checkers and triage platforms, to allow people to care for themselves. As a result, more people than ever chose to self-care, leading to a long-term shift in public attitudes. In a 2022 public survey, 73% of respondents agreed that the NHS should make it easier for people to care for themselves without using GP services or A&E.
However, as attention has turned to the NHS’s recovery, progress on self-care has stalled. Innovations introduced during the pandemic are no longer being used to their full potential and disjointed policies, along with a lack of political focus on self-care, are preventing people from managing their health. Whilst the Secretary of State’s plans to expand the role of community pharmacies are a promising start, a more holistic, system-wide approach is required to maximise the prize. Today’s letter in the Times highlights this and makes the case for a national self-care strategy to deliver the kind of focused action that is now urgently required.
In October 2021, the Self Care Strategy Group, of which PAGB is a member, published a blueprint for a self-care strategy in England which recommends:
Since its publication, the blueprint has been praised in Parliament by MPs and Peers from different political parties who have urged the Government to introduce a national self-care strategy. Given this, and today’s letter in the Times, we hope the Government will take note of the sector’s calls and seize the opportunity to truly embed self-care across the NHS.
For more information about the Self Care Strategy Group and the blueprint for a self-care strategy in England, visit selfcarestrategy.org.
Sir, in light of the growing winter crisis in the NHS and the imminent Autumn statement, we urge the Government to consider the value of self care. Self care does not mean no care. When practised appropriately and effectively it enables people to access the most suitable care for their symptoms. Prior to the pandemic, it’s estimated that £1.5bn was spent on inappropriate use of NHS services for self-treatable conditions. In contrast, in a 2022 survey,73% of people said it should be easier to care for yourself without using GP or A&E services, indicating a shift in public attitudes and the opportunity self care presents for the long-term sustainability of our NHS.
Whilst much-trailed plans to expand the role of community pharmacies are a promising start, a more holistic, system-wide approach is essential to maximise the prize and improve population health. Systems and services introduced during the pandemic are not being used to their full potential and disjointed policies, along with a lack of political focus on self care, are preventing people from effectively treating themselves and managing their health.
As a coalition of leading health and pharmacy organisations, we have developed a blueprint on how best to support self care in England. We urge the Government to take forward its recommendations and implement a national self care strategy. This includes cultivating: an enhanced role for community pharmacists to refer to other healthcare professionals by enabling them to access and populate shared medical records; a school curriculum which helps the next generation to understand when and how to self care; and digital technologies and trusted health information that facilitate and encourage effective self care.
A well-communicated, national self care strategy, developed in collaboration with healthcare professionals and the public, is a win-win for us all.
Helen Donovan – Chair, Self Care Forum
Thorrun Govind – English Pharmacy Board Chair, Royal Pharmaceutical Society
Dr Leyla Hannbeck – Chief Executive Officer, Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies
Malcolm Harrison – Chief Executive Officer, Company Chemists’ Association
Dr Graham Jackson – GP and Chair of Self-Care Strategy Group
Mark Lyonette – Chief Executive, National Pharmacy Association
Sophie Randall – Director, Patient Informaiton Forum
Michelle Riddalls – Chief Executive Officer, PAGB
Professor Ash Soni – President, National Association for Primary Care
Dr Caroline Taylor – Chair, National Association for Primary Care