School pupils should learn about selfcare for minor ailments as part of a ‘wholesale cultural shift’ in attitudes towards health services, says a coalition of healthcare and industry bodies.
The Royal College of Nursing, NHS Clinical Commissioners and PAGB, the consumer healthcare association, are among those calling for the inclusion of selfcare in the national curriculum, as well as in training and education courses for healthcare professionals.
They are urging the Government to develop a national selfcare strategy to help address health inequalities, improve outcomes, and reduce demands on the NHS.
The recommendations come in a joint statement on selfcare, also signed by the National Pharmacy Association, the Self Care Forum, the Company Chemists Association and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC).
Taking ownership of our health
The statement says selfcare allows people to ‘take ownership’ of their health by recognising the symptoms of self-treatable conditions and understanding how to manage them.
‘[By] equipping people with the knowledge to take greater care of themselves and freeing up healthcare professionals’ time, selfcare can play a significant role in driving improvements in population health,’ it says.
‘To truly deliver the benefits that selfcare can bring, a wholesale cultural shift is needed. Both the public’s perception of health and wellbeing, and healthcare professionals’ perceptions of the role they can play, need to change.’
The joint clinical consensus statement on selfcare calls for measures to enhance the role of community pharmacists, encouraging people to make better use of their expertise and accessibility.
In particular, it recommends that community pharmacists should be able to refer individuals directly to other healthcare professionals. Anyone consulting a community pharmacist would therefore be guaranteed expert advice, an effective over-the-counter product, or an appointment for medical help elsewhere.
The joint statement also calls on NHS England and NHS Improvement to explore the implementation of ‘recommendation prescriptions’, encouraging clinicians to discuss and refer patients towards selfcare.
Additionally, it recommends that:
• Community pharmacists should have access to patients’ health records, enabling them to read and write about medications taken previously or recommended to an individual
• NHSX [the body driving digital innovation in the NHS] should explore technologies that can be used to promote selfcare and manage demand on the NHS
• Primary Care Networks (locally-connected groups of healthcare providers such as GPs and mental health services) should consider ways to improve selfcare in their communities
Earlier this year, a survey by PAGB suggested the coronavirus pandemic had changed attitudes towards selfcare as people opted to stay away from GP surgeries and A&E departments.
Michelle Riddalls, Chief Executive of PAGB, said: “Selfcare is a vital part of our health system. It has the potential to reduce health inequalities, improve outcomes and protect NHS resources for those who need them most. However, too often it goes unrecognised by policymakers. We have a unique opportunity now to embed and expand selfcare practices that many people have adopted safely and effectively during the coronavirus pandemic.
“This clinical consensus statement demonstrates support across a broad range of healthcare and pharmacy organisations for a national selfcare strategy and the positive impact it would have on individuals as well as on the NHS as a whole.”
Dr Graham Jackson, Chair NHS Clinical Commissioners said: “The development of a national self-care strategy is an important component of population health; empowering people to self-care where appropriate can lead to improved personal wellbeing. At the same time, it reduces the burden on stretched health services, which in turn improves access to healthcare professionals for those that need the professional support.”