In April 2020 the House of Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee launched an inquiry into Delivering Core NHS and Care Services during the Pandemic and Beyond.
“As we move beyond the peak of the pandemic, the NHS and care sectors will face a new set of strategic challenges. The aim of our inquiry is to give focus to these upcoming strategic challenges, and give those working in the NHS and care sectors an opportunity to set out what help they will need from Government in meeting them. The inquiry will consider the current situation but also take a forward look over the next six months.”
PAGB submitted written evidence to the House of Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee’s inquiry into Delivering Core NHS and Care Services during the Pandemic and Beyond.
In our submission, we identify a unique opportunity to embed positive changes in the way people use NHS resources for the longer-term sustainability of the NHS.
Among the coronavirus-related NHS changes which should be fully embedded in order to encourage self care, PAGB’s evidence to the Select Committee recommends:
1. Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, there were an estimated 18 million GP appointments a year and 3.7 million A&E visits a year for self-treatable conditions, which people could have managed themselves, or for which a pharmacist should have been the first port of call.
2. Over the last six weeks, people with self-treatable conditions have not been able to visit a GP in the same way as they could before the coronavirus outbreak and therefore, will have been practicing self care. Equally, people with coronavirus symptoms have been asked to self care, by staying at home and looking after themselves.
3. Self care is defined as the actions that individuals take for themselves, on behalf of and with others, to develop protect, maintain and improve their health, wellbeing or wellness. Self care is not ‘no care’. It is an important, but often overlooked, part of the primary care pathway.
4. In order to manage the back-log of demand from people that have been unable to access healthcare services over recent weeks, it will be critical to ensure that those people with self-treatable conditions continue to self care and do not seek medical attention where this is not necessary.
5. Once the worst of the coronavirus crisis is over and healthcare services begin to normalise, there will be a unique opportunity to embed self care behaviour in a sustainable way. However, if the system and healthcare professionals themselves allow people to return to doing what they did before, this opportunity will be lost and the unnecessary demand of self-treatable conditions will continue to be felt throughout the NHS.
6. In the immediate recovery period, it will be important for action to be taken to ensure the behavioural shift towards a digital first self care approach is maintained and community pharmacy is fully embedded in the core primary care team and as the ‘front door’ of the NHS in people’s minds.
PAGB’s White Paper, sets out a series of policies which should be implemented to create and embed a culture of self care, including supporting people to manage their own health, tackling health inequalities and reducing pressures on NHS services.