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Choose Self Care for Life in 2018


The logos for Self Care Week 2018 are now available for organisations to start planning activities. Choose Self Care for Life is the strap line and organisations are being encouraged to use Self Care Week as a hook to help people choose self care for a healthier, happier life.  A communications document is available to help you start planning in addition to the best practice report from former Self Care Week Award winners in Bracknell Forest and in Yorkshire.

22 Million People Encouraged to Embrace Self Care for Life


A review of Self Care Week found that more than 300 organisations participated in the awareness week in 2017, 78 of those were Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) with a combined reach of more than 22 million people, more than a third of the population in England.

The review also highlights findings from a survey of participants which found that self care for self-treatable conditions was the most popular message being communicated and signposting to the community pharmacist the second most favoured.  The survey also found that social media was the most chosen medium being used during Self Care Week.  For further details about the campaign and the diversity of organisations that supported it, read the full review.

Working with Cancer


The Self Care Forum is delighted to be endorsing “Working With Cancer” from the European Men’s Health Forum.  It is a short 12-page booklet that answers all the questions that working men, whether employed, self-employed or freelance, have when cancer strikes.

The Guide, which is free, was written by a working man with cancer, developed with a steering group including working men with cancer and read and commented on by working men with cancer. It has also been endorsed by a host of organisations such as the Royal College of Nursing, London Southbank University and the Self Care in Europe (SCIE).

DistrACT App for Young People


Expert Self Care Ltd, (ESc) believes it is important for young people to have access to good reliable information in order to make the right choices about their health and be in control of their wellbeing and has developed a free app to provide support, advice and health information for those considering self-harm or suicide.  Esc’s founder, Dr Knut Schroeder, a GP said:“This app is designed for people when they’re at their most vulnerable.”

“It can be hard to seek help, so distrACT aims to make that process as easy as possible. The young people we worked with have informed the content and design, so we hope that it can become a reliable source of support during difficult times.”  The app is available in android and iphone.

It’s never too early to learn self care skills


By Dr Pete Smith, GP in Kingston and Self Care Forum Co-chair

Learning self care skills from an early age is important in encouraging children to want to live healthy lifestyles and to learn about basic ideas about health looking after yourself and self reliance. This can give them the grounding to prepare them for dealing with bigger issues in later life.

It is an important part of what we call health literacy, providing children with the knowledge that will help them understand their health and its importance as they grow.

The ideas below might seem obvious, but often self care at this age is pretty simple though it may not be recognized as such.

Eating healthily and as a family and having regular meals together rather than snacks and only having sweets as special treats. Get kids used to having fruit and other snacks as treats and avoid sugary drinks completely.

Having busy lives can make it difficult but simple things like walking to the shops and trying to encourage babies and children to be active, as much as possible.

Babies in their first year might be encouraged to choose healthy foods and start to copy parents by washing their hands after a meal and holding a toothbrush to imitate parents.

As they grow through their second year these could be further encouraged along with importance of hygiene by learning to wash their hands independently and by joining in washing themselves and brushing their own teeth before bedtime.

Learning about the general need for cleanliness and hygiene can be helped by encouraging children to put dirty clothes in a wash basket (if that’s what you do) and helping wash up after meals. Mentioning cleaning off germs can be a good way of exploring the eventual question ‘why?’

The need for active lifestyle can be encouraged through getting children involved in parental exercise, even when it is just going for a regular walk or playing a game outside.

Older toddlers could be encouraged to brush their own hair and choose their own healthy food from the fridge. Again basic ideas about healthy bones and teeth can help with the question ‘why?’

Encouraging independent washing of hands and face is helped if soaps and towels are within reach.

When a child has a cold or other self-limiting condition, encouraging children to see that it is possible to look after one another and make things better without necessarily having to go to a GP.

Even learning the home phone number, address and emergency numbers are an important part of self care and understanding.

There is so much we can do to encourage healthy behavior and activity from an early age!

Infographic: Saving time, reducing waste


The Self Care Forum joined with the Royal College of General Practitioners and PAGB (the consumer healthcare industry representative) to produce an infographic quantifying some of the savings people and general practices can realise through greater self care.

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.”


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.

The Self Care Forum factsheets cover 14 self-treatable conditions and are available free of charge here:

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, or 020 7421 9318.

Self Care Week Award 2016 Winners


The Self Care Forum introduced the Self Care Week Awards in 2015 to celebrate the Self Care Week excellence that takes place up and down the country in a bid to raise awareness about the benefits of self care and to engage and empower people to look after their physical health and mental wellbeing.  Each year the standard increases and the numbers of participants increase ensuring Self Care Week goes from strength to strength each year.   For their inspirational and innovative work during Self Care Week 2016, three localities were presented with awards during the Annual Self Care Conference in September 2017.

Award Winners:  Walsall Clinical Commissioning Group, for their collaborative work with local schools and colleges in empowering young people in their health.

Award Innovators: Pershore and Upton GP Local Cluster, for their collaborative work with their Patient Reference Group and voluntary sector partners to plan a Year of Self Care activities locally.

Award Innovators: Mid Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, for their Live Well campaign to involve local people in discussions about their health and care on how to Live Well.

Improving health literacy in education – why it is important we make the grade


By Alex Teckkam, Codes of Practice Assessor at PAGB

The years in spent education are some of the most important of your life. This is the time where you should learn the skills, knowledge and confidence to be able to care for yourself and others in the wider world. But despite the packed curriculums, there are concerns that young people leaving the education system are lacking the health literacy to help them do just that – look after themselves.

Health literacy is key in empowering people to confidently make healthy life choices. Without the ability to obtain, process and understand health materials, is it really surprising that people struggle to choose appropriate NHS services? How can we expect individuals to take steps to prevent long term conditions, or to know when to or when not to visit the GP, if they do not have the skills to confidently access or use health information or services?

So how big is this problem in the UK?

Well, recent research suggests that between 43% and 61% of the working population in England do not have the knowledge to understand and apply health information[1]. In 2015 we know that an estimated 42% of 18-24 year olds were recurrent users of A&E, despite recent NHS campaigns aimed at reducing A&E attendance.

We also know that low health literacy has a significant negative impact on health. People with low levels of functional health literacy are more likely to lead unhealthy lifestyles, to suffer from long-term health conditions and have a higher mortality. It also affects a person’s ability to confidently interact with NHS services or staff. This is of growing importance, with an ever-increasing emphasis on shared decision making and patient participation within the NHS. It is clear that people need functioning health literacy in order to make confident decisions about their own health.

This low level of health literacy has an impact on the NHS as well as the individual. It is estimated that the issue costs 3% to 5% of the annual UK health budget[2], with a £2.3 billion spend alone resulting from people using an inappropriate NHS service for their self treatable conditions[3].  With the growing pressure on NHS resources, it is clear we cannot afford to ignore this problem.

Full article

Social Prescribing


Social prescribing, which is sometimes known as community referral, is, according to the King’s Fund, a means of enabling GPs, nurses and other primary care professionals to refer people to a range of local, non-clinical services.

It’s aim is to support individuals to take greater control of their own health and seeks to address people’s needs in a holistic way.

Increasingly, primary care organisations are seeing the benefits of incorporating social prescribing approaches as a means of supporting people’s health and wellbeing.

In 2010, the Self Care Forum produced a case study highlighting the work by Bromley-by-Bow Health Centre in East London.  One of the earliest and best-known social prescribing projects, staff there work with patients, often over several sessions, to help them get involved in more than 30 local services ranging from swimming lessons to legal advice and here is a case study of their work.

At the Annual Self Care Conference in 2017, Professor Chris Drinkwater presented the excellent work taking place in the North of England led by Ways to Wellness, a charitable foundation in Newcastle West.  Their social prescribing project  provides local people with long term condition with individual link workers to help them identify and work to overcome their barriers to managing their health.

Further details about the Ways to Wellness project can be found here.