The NHS describes self care as “keeping fit and healthy, as well as knowing how to take medicines, treat minor ailments and seek help when you need it. If you have a long-term condition, self care is about understanding that condition and how to live with it.”
In a culture that has become increasingly dependent on health professionals, it is more important than ever to promote self care. People need to be empowered to take greater responsibility for their health and take an active role in managing and preventing their own illnesses.
Last year, 2020health and the PAGB proposed ways to encourage a shift in the public’s attitude and support more self care. Their proposals included:
- Transferring total responsibility to GP commissioning means that they will be seeking to use their budgets, for which they will be accountable to their peers, as carefully as possible. Every unnecessary appointment and prescription for medications available ‘OTC’, that is where self-care would have been sufficient, is a waste of money.
- Healthwatch could be an advisory portal that not only seeks to hold local service providers to account but could also promote prevention and self-care, explaining prescriptions and including signposting people to their pharmacy or information rich websites.
- The concept of the Big Society is all about taking more responsibility, it’s about “giving you the initiative to take control of your life and work with those around you to improve things”. Applied to health there should be an increasing sense of ‘community’ at the heart of health which encourages everything from informal partnerships in care (such as between those with the same long-term condition) to more appropriate use of A&E.
- Health and Wellbeing Boards are in development and Local Authorities will have a renewed interest in the health of their local populations. They are responsible for establishing ‘HealthWatch’ and holding commissioners to account for effective use of resources and provision for the local population.
- Establishment of a Behaviour Change Unit at the heart of government.
The theme for this year is technology – an important topic here at 2020health. Visit us at 2020health.org to read our report Healthcare Without Walls for more information on the importance of telehealth services.
I wholeheartedly agree with this article especially the need to empower health care service users to make the most of common sense and use resources already available to them such as web based self help exercises and information.
One mechanism currently lacking is a joined up approach to self help materials which seem to exist only regionally or through certain interested practitioners – it would be really helpful if alongside NHS direct and NHS choices, practitioners could access a professional site summarising the self help materials available to signpost for patients and carers.
Perhaps an app that searches for self help materials might be a way forward…