by Michelle Riddalls, CEO of PAGB, the consumer healthcare association
Effective healthcare calls for collaboration. Whether it’s between a patient and a healthcare professional, colleagues across medical specialties or different NHS institutions, teamwork is key.
Self care, despite its name, is no different. Individuals don’t learn by osmosis to take control of their own health and wellbeing. No-one knows instinctively how to self-treat a headache or a sore throat. It’s a process that involves education, experience and support.
And at a time when the NHS is under pressure as never before, we should be doing all we can to empower people to practise self care, if that’s the best and most appropriate option for them.
That’s why I’m immensely proud that PAGB, the consumer healthcare association, is part of a coalition setting out new and detailed proposals for the creation of a national self care strategy.
The document, “Realising the potential: Developing a blueprint for a self care strategy for England”, is itself the product of team work, drawn up in partnership with NHS Clinical Commissioners, the Royal College of Nursing, the National Association of Primary Care, the National Pharmacy Association, the Self Care Forum, the Company Chemists Association, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies.
It’s the culmination of a project that began in earnest in October 2019, when PAGB joined representatives of medical royal colleges, professional organisations and trade associations at a round table discussion at Westminster.
Out of that meeting came a clinical consensus statement underlining the importance of self care, the role of healthcare professionals in supporting it and the need for a new policy approach to embed it fully into our health system.
Almost two years on (and what a two years they have been), we have gone a step further.
Our joint blueprint offers a far-reaching vision of self care at the heart of our health system, certainly, but it also sets out the practical ways in which we can realise that vision as quickly as possible in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It calls for better use of assets that already exist, including digital technology, the expertise of community pharmacists and effective medicines for self-treatable conditions.
It suggests hands-on ways in which we can improve understanding of self care – for example, by teaching it in schools and including it in healthcare professionals’ training.
And it highlights projects around the country that are already encouraging and supporting self care, freeing up NHS resources such as GP appointments for those who are most in need of expert medical attention.
So we are not seeking reinvention of the wheel. We hope instead to help navigate those in the driving seat towards a place where self care is a core part of the primary care pathway, improving health outcomes and protecting the future of our NHS.