Self Care Week: Nearly half of adults need help to self care

New figures published ahead of Self Care Week (13-19 November) show that nearly half of UK adults (47.7%) need help to self care for self-treatable conditions.

According to new research, commissioned by the Self Care Forum, people need more information about common symptoms of self-treatable conditions and how long they should expect the symptoms to last before they feel better.

People would also like more information about which medicines they can buy to treat their symptoms and how to use those medicines appropriately.

Evidence shows there are 57 million GP appointments and 3.7 million visits to A&E each year for self-treatable conditions, which suggests this lack of information is driving people to seek advice from a doctor.  However, all the information people need is readily available from their local community pharmacy.

Dr Pete Smith, Self Care Forum Co-Chair, said: “As a GP I regularly see patients in my surgery who are only there for advice or information that they could have got from their local pharmacy.  We have been told to expect high levels of colds and flu this winter, so it is vital we do more to give people enough information to help them to self care when appropriate, and to know when things are more serious so they do need to see a doctor.

“The Self Care Forum has produced a range of factsheets to help GPs and pharmacists talk through the symptoms of common self-treatable conditions with people to give them the information they are telling us they need.”

Dr Selwyn Hodge, Self Care Forum Co-Chair, said: “These results highlight the worryingly low levels of health literacy in the UK.  While we are becoming an information-rich society, this is not being matched by people’s levels of understanding about health issues – and searching for information and advice on health conditions online often leaves people more confused or concerned.

“We believe that health education should become a statutory part of the curriculum from nursery through to sixth form. This would make real inroads into improving people’s health literacy and help reduce unnecessary demands on the NHS by encouraging appropriate self care.”

Welcoming Self Care Week, Health Minister Steve Brine said “We know GPs are busier than ever, but around a third of appointments are unnecessary, so any initiatives to provide easily accessible information on self-care will help to relieve pressure on GPs.

“Community pharmacists are a great source of knowledge and can offer informed guidance to those seeking treatment for a number of minor ailments, which is why Public Health England and NHS England will again be running its ‘Stay Well this Winter’ campaign encouraging people to use their community pharmacy first.”

Ends

Notes to Editors:

The Self Care Forum is a UK charity which aims to further the reach of self care and embed it into everyday life. www.selfcareforum.org

The Self Care Forum factsheets cover 14 self-treatable conditions and are available free of charge here: http://www.selfcareforum.org/fact-sheets/

Self Care Week is an annual initiative to raise awareness of self care.  The theme for Self Care Week 2017 (13-19 November) is “Embracing Self Care for Life”.

Survey of 2,000 UK adults carried out by 3Gem, October 2017:

  1. What, if anything, do you need to be able to self care for self-treatable conditions?
Nothing, I always self care for self-treatable conditions 52.3%
More information about common symptoms of self-treatable conditions 16.8%
More information on how long self-treatable conditions should last before I feel better 17.0%
More information about what medicines I can buy to treat my symptoms 16.2%
More information about how to use/take over-the-counter medicines 10.5%
Advice from a doctor, they are the only professionals I trust to advise me about my health 6.0%
Advice from friends and family 4.9%
Advice from a pharmacist 14.4%
Over-the-counter medicines to be cheaper so I can afford them 8.5%

Stay Well This Winter is organised by Public Health England and NHS England and is an integrated multi channel campaign, aimed to ease seasonal pressure on NHS urgent care and emergency services.

For more information, please contact Libby Whittaker, libby.whittaker@selfcareforum.org or 020 7421 9318.