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Better self-care could halve the NHS’s shortfall at a stroke

People going to see their GP for complaints that could more easily be treated at home is costing the NHS £2 billion a year according to report published by leading self-care clinicians today.

With the NHS Confederation forecasting a shortfall of £20bn in NHS funding over the next five years, the Self Care Campaign advocacy group argues that a shift in behaviour around self-treatable ailments could save the NHS half the total shortfall without any cuts to services whatsoever.

The group’s report, Self Care: An Ethical Imperative, argues that the public’s dependency on the NHS has had a ‘catastrophic impact’. of the public’s dependency on the NHS and that the NHS has become the victim of a demand-led culture. Niggles such as coughs and colds account for nearly one fifth of GP workload. Of the 57 million GP consultations which involved a minor ailment, 51.4m were for minor ailments alone – testament argues the report to an NHS addressing demand rather than need.

Educate patients

The Self Care Campaign manifesto, backed by the MHF, is calling on all political parties and health professionals to support the group’s campaign to ‘allow people to be confident in their self care choices’. They’re calling for a social marketing campaign to educate people to understand what aliments require a doctor and when so that GPs’ and practice nurses’ time is freed up to look after more complex conditions. They also want to see effective and appropriate use of the NHS on the national curriculum.

The Self Care campaign stress that they’re not asking patients to diagnose themselves but to understand what the NHS can and can’t do. For example, there is no reason to go to the doctor when you have a cold, even if it lasts for two weeks – as this is how long it takes for some people to recover from a cold. There is nothing a doctor – or any prescription - can do to speed up the recovery process.

MHF CEO Peter Baker said: 'We're supporting this campaign because men in particular would benefit from better self-care. The measures outlined in the campaign's White Paper would help to improve men's knowledge of the wide range of health services and how to use them appropriately. Pharmacists in particular are hugely under-used by men yet have the potential to provide easy-to-access advice, information and support for a wide range of conditions.'

Top 10 frequently self-treatable ailments and number of consultations annually:

  1. Back pain 8.4m
  2. Dermatitis 6.8m
  3. Heartburn and indigestion 6.8m
  4. Nasal congestion 5.3m
  5. Constipation 4.3m
  6. Migraine 2.7m
  7. Cough 2.6m
  8. Acne 2.4m
  9. Sprains and strains 2.2m
  10. Headache 1.8m

Advocacy Group

Launched this month, the Self Care Campaign advocacy group includes:

  • Peter Baker, Men’s Health Forum
  • Dr Ian Banks, Men’s Health Forum
  • Dr Michael Dixon OBE, NHS Alliance, GP mid Devon
  • Dr Simon Fradd, GP, Nottingham
  • Professor David Haslam CBE, GP, Cambridgeshire
  • Sheila Kelly OBE, executive director, PAGB
  • Dr John Chisholm CBE, GP, south London
  • Gopa Mitra MBE, director of health policy and public affairs, PAGB
  • Dr Raj Patel, NHS Alliance, Tameside and Glossop PCT and NHS North West
  • Professor Mike Pringle CBE, University of Nottingham
  • Sara Richards, RGN (registered general nurse), ex vice-chair, Practice Nurse Association, Royal College of Nursing
  • Dr Peter Smith OBE, vice president of the National Association of Primary Care
  • Douglas Smallwood, chief executive, Diabetes UK
  • Professor Nigel Sparrow, University of Nottingham and GP, Nottinghamshire
  • Dr Paul Stillman, GP, West Sussex
  • Susan Summers, assistant director of quality assurance and self care, North West Strategic Health Authority
  • Lynn Young, primary healthcare advisor, Royal College of Nursing

Further information:

Page created on March 15th, 2010

Page updated on March 22nd, 2010