Self-care is vital to a sustainable NHS

I have blogged this on this morning, but it’s worth repeating here as it’s part of our core message – we have to reverse the dependency culture and wasting NHS resources by encouraging self-care as part of the solution to sustainable healthcare.

The BBC have covered this morning a report by the Self-Care Campaign that is singing from the same hymn sheet as 2020health’s reports on Responsibility in Healthcare and our What Women Want manifesto: unless we encourage, nudge, educate, incentivise, whatever towards self-care, the ‘dependency culture’ will continue to drain the NHS of vital resources that are desperately needed for those with serious illness.

Using stats published in August last year, today’s report identifies that one fifth of GP appointments are a waste of their time – coughs, colds, backache, dermatitis, constipation. (Even now I can hear the relevant campaign groups reaching for their keypads to write and tell me of all the deadly diseases of which these ‘innocuous’ symptoms can be the first sign – no need please – we’re simply advocating common sense and discretion). Privately I have had GPs tell me it’s up to 40% that are unnecessary. And there are no tears being shed over the potential loss of these patients as they are currently having to be fitted in around the greater number of patients being treated ‘in the community’ the sameGPs.

Some say this ‘dependency’ dates back to the inception of the NHS; I’m not sure about that – but what I am sure of is that over the last 12 years, the emphasis on easier access to health professionals, extension of ‘free’ prescriptions and knowledge that we are treated no matter what has been interpreted by too many as an entitlement with no obligation. It’s unaffordable.

All Parties should be embracing self-care as a common sense part-solution to a long term sustainable healthcare system. It’s simple: more self-care = fewer cutbacks. It should be part of a four way deal: industry should be providing more health services; individuals should be using health services more wisely; professionals should be enabling self-care and the government should be ensuring the highest standards of care, practice and information are disseminated and implemented.


About Julia Manning

Julia Manning is a social pioneer, writer, campaigner and commentator. Formerly a clinical optometrist specialising in diabetes and visual impairment, she is the founder and Director of 2020health, an independent, social enterprise Think Tank whose aim is to Make Health Personal and Social. 2020health has through research, events and campaigning influenced opinion and action in fields as diverse as bioethics, alcohol, emerging technologies, fraud, education, consumer technology and vaccination. In 2014, 2020health were founding partners of the Health Tech and You Awards with Axa PPP and the Design Museum. Since 2016, 2020health has increasingly focused on digital health and public health in the community. Julia is a Fellow of the RSA and now also a part-time PhD student at the UCL Interaction Centre, studying the use of digital technology for stress management in the workplace. Julia has shared 2020health's research widely in the media (BBC News, ITV, Channel 5 News, BBC 1′s The Big Questions & Victoria Derbyshire, BBC Radio 4 Today, PM and Woman's Hour, LBC) and has taken part in debates and contributed to BBC’s Newsnight, Panorama, You and Yours and ITV’s The Week.
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One Response to Self-care is vital to a sustainable NHS

  1. Alex Butler says:

    Although it is impossible to object with the central thrust of this argument I do have one point to make. How often do we all hear on an anecdotal basis of people, usually elderly, who have ‘pestered’ their GP for months and possibly years-been brushed away and probably referred to as ‘worried well’-only to be diagnosed too late with a terminal cancer? This has happened twice to people I have known personally. I have already heard GP’s jumping on the bandwagon with this.

    When the ability for our Primary Care service to diagnose to the standard required for a range of conditions such as a range of cancers and infectious disease (many know nothing about diagnosing Hep C for instance) I will be more sympathetic. Look at how well they manage dermatology-people are left on toxic medications for years with psoriasis without any attempt to refer properly and use the correct care pathway. Dermatology accounts for more consultations than anything else they manage.

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