Self care

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The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the importance of self care both to individuals and to the NHS as a whole, as people have been urged to treat their own symptoms wherever possible. Many who would previously have sought a GP appointment or visited A&E for a self-treatable condition have taken the decision to care for themselves safely and appropriately.

We want to see this shift in emphasis and behaviour embedded into our health system through policy changes that will encourage self care. This includes the wider adoption and promotion of digital resources to improve access to reliable information and advice about self care.

What is self care?

PAGB defines self care as the actions people take for themselves and their families to:

Self care is not no care and it is not necessarily practised in isolation. It may involve support and advice from others, such as expert pharmacy teams.

PAGB has long argued in favour of measures to prioritise self care and overcome the barriers that deter people from practising it (see below). These goals are at the heart of our five-year strategy to 2025.

We are working with PAGB members, organisations across the health care sector and policymakers to drive progress towards a national self care strategy.

PAGB is calling for the 2020s to be the decade of self care

The benefits of self care

Self Care Self care empowers people, enabling them to treat the symptoms of minor ailments appropriately and effectively.
Self Care Self care protects vital NHS resources by reducing the number of unnecessary GP appointments and A&E attendances.
Self Care Self care narrows health inequalities and improves outcomes by equipping people across all socioeconomic groups with the tools to treat themselves effectively and appropriately where possible.

 

Before the coronavirus outbreak, there were an estimated 18 million GP appointments and 3.7 million A&E visits every year for conditions which people could have treated themselves or for which a pharmacist should have been the first port of call.

The cost to the NHS, along with that of unnecessary prescriptions for products which could be bought over the counter, is estimated by PAGB at £1.5 billion a year.

PAGB’s self care policy goals

Alongside our overarching call for a national strategy to facilitate the development of self care policies, we are working with stakeholders towards a series of goals to encourage and embed effective, appropriate self care.

Our 2019 Self Care White Paper, which has been updated to reflect the impact of Covid-19, sets out in more detail the potential benefits of implementing our recommendations and how they can support delivery of the NHS Long Term Plan.

Our report on the Future of the NHS focuses on the importance of self care in the context of Covid-19. It shines a spotlight on the positive steps taken by the NHS in response to the pandemic and calls for these changes to be embraced in the long term.

White Paper

An enhanced role for community pharmacy

There are more than 11,600 community pharmacists in England alone. Overall, almost nine out of ten people (89%) live within a 20-minute walk of a community pharmacy. In the most deprived areas of the country, that figure rises to 99%.

Access to pharmacists’ expertise and advice has the potential to transform individuals’ approach to self care.

PAGB recommends that:

pharmacist and customer

Better use of digital resources and services

PAGB is calling for a ‘digital first’ approach to embed the shift towards online resources that has been accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Read more about opportunities for digital self care in our policy paper: ‘Self care and technology: Harnessing the potential of technology to transform self care’

We recommend:

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Digital Self Care Audit: In November 2020, PAGB published an audit of online platforms where people commonly access information about managing their health in England to analyse what information is available and how accessible it is. PAGB’s findings are published in a ‘Digital Self Care Audit’ in which we make three key recommendations for how recent advancements across digital platforms and remote services during the pandemic can be harnessed to lock-in a longer-term shift towards self care.
 

Self care education and support

Education and access to reliable sources of information can enhance skills in self care, just as in other areas of knowledge.

PAGB recommends that:

Our research

Our self care goals draw on our research demonstrating the value of self care and exploring public attitudes towards it.

In 2016, we published our first major report on the issue, Self Care Nation, based on a survey of more than 5,000 people. The vast majority of respondents acknowledged the importance of taking responsibility for their own health, yet one third said they would seek a GP appointment as their first option for advice about a minor health condition.

A second survey of 2,000 people, published in 2017, underlined this gap between people’s desire to self care and their confidence in their ability to do so. A quarter of respondents told us they needed more education in identifying and managing common self-treatable conditions.

How has the coronavirus pandemic affected people’s attitudes to self care?

In June 2020, we carried out a poll to find out how the coronavirus pandemic and national lockdown had influenced attitudes to accessing health care services.

 

 

Almost seven out of ten survey respondents who might not have considered self care as their first option before the pandemic said they were more likely to likely to do so in future.

Almost one in three who would not have asked a pharmacist for advice about their symptoms as a first option said they were more likely to do so following the coronavirus pandemic.

This demonstrates the unique opportunity we now have to cement positive changes in attitudes to self care and in the way people use the NHS, as we argued in our written evidence to the House of Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee inquiry, Delivering Core NHS and Care Services During the Pandemic and Beyond.

 

Our partnerships

We are working with stakeholders across healthcare and industry to move self care up the agenda.

In October 2019 and February 2020 we brought together a round table group to discuss the role of healthcare professionals in encouraging and supporting self care. The resulting Clinical Consensus Statement on Self Care has been endorsed by the Royal College of Nursing, NHS Clinical Commissioners, the National Pharmacy Association, the Company Chemists Association, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee and the Self Care Forum. It was updated in October 2020 to reflect the impact of COVID-19 and stress the importance of embedding self care policies to support people to self care for self-treatable conditions.

We support Self Care Week in November, which is spearheaded annually by the Self Care Forum, with whom we share many goals, and Stay Well This Winter, the campaign by Public Health England to encourage self care measures during the colder months of the year.

We are involved in the drive to raise awareness of the risks of unnecessary prescription of antibiotics, backing the Antibiotic Guardian campaign, World Antibiotic Awareness Week and the European Antibiotics Awareness Day

We are members of AESGP (the Association of the European Self Care Industry) and the Global Self Care Federation, sharing global insights into the way self care is perceived and practised around the world.

In September 2020, PAGB CEO Michelle Riddalls was among those leading a discussion hosted by the GSCF into self care in Africa during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Share your views and join us in promoting the importance of self care:

 
Contact us

selfcare@pagb.co.uk

Follow us on Twitter

@PAGBselfcare

Join our network on LinkedIn

PAGB, the consumer healthcare association

 

Some of our latest resources and reports

Harnessing the potential of technology to transform self care

The Future of the NHS: self care during and beyond the Covid-19 pandemic

Delivering core NHS services during the pandemic and beyond (response to the Health and Social Care Select Committee)

A clinical consensus statement on self care (updated October 2020)

Overcoming the barriers to self care

Self care and technology: Harnessing the potential of technology to transform self care

Self care Nation (2016) – survey of self care attitudes and behaviours

Self Care Nation 2017: Confused about self care?

OTC directory

PAGB produces the OTC Directory, a comprehensive guide to OTC products available on the market in the UK.

The OTC Directory is a free resource for healthcare professionals to help them support people to self care for self-treatable conditions. Using the OTC Directory, GPs, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals can help advise people on what is available to help them manage symptoms, and help give them the confidence to self care in the future.