A coalition of healthcare organisations has published a joint statement calling for a national strategy for self-care that puts community pharmacy at its centre.

The statement recommends ways in which the NHS could build on the self-care messaging adopted during the Covid-19 pandemic, has been published by a coalition of healthcare and industry bodies.

It also recommends that school pupils should learn about self-care for minor ailments as part of a ‘wholesale cultural shift’ in attitudes towards health services.

“The coronavirus pandemic has challenged people to think differently about their healthcare choices, so this is a good moment to encourage the whole system to embrace self-care. The NPA (National Pharmacy Association) is pleased to be associated with calls to embed self-care culturally and to promote it in health care practice,” said Mark Lyonette, chief executive of the NPA.

Entitled ‘The Clinical Consensus on Self Care’, the document was jointly published by the NPA, Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee and Company Chemists Association (CCA) – from pharmacy – and NHS Clinical Commissioners, the consumer healthcare association PAGB, the Self Care Forum and the Royal College of Nursing.

Earlier this year, a survey by PAGB suggested the coronavirus pandemic had changed attitudes towards self-care as people opted to stay away from GP surgeries and A&E departments.

Almost seven out of ten respondents who might not have considered self-care as their first option before the pandemic said they were more likely to likely to do so in future.

Among those who previously considered A&E as an acceptable route to access care for generally self-treatable conditions, more than seven out of ten said it was less likely to be their first option after the coronavirus pandemic.

Among those who previously sought a GP appointment as their first option, more than half said they were less likely to do so after the pandemic.

Michelle Riddalls, chief executive of PAGB, said: “Self-care 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 self care 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 self care strategy and the positive impact it would have on individuals as well as on the NHS as a whole.”

Enhance role of community pharmacists

The joint clinical consensus statement on self-care calls for measures to enhance the role of community pharmacists, encouraging people to make better use of their expertise and accessibility.

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 referral, it says.

The joint statement also calls on NHS England & Improvement to explore the implementation of ‘recommendation prescriptions’, encouraging clinicians to discuss and refer patients towards self-care.

Additionally, it recommends that:

  • Primary Care Networks should consider ways to improve self-care in their communities
  • 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 should explore technologies that can be used to promote self-care and manage demand on the NHS

Chief executive Malcolm Harrison said the CCA supports “the PAGB’s call for self-care to become an integrated part of our healthcare system.”

“Today, more than ever before, we are seeing the importance of self-care, in which community pharmacy plays a vital role, ensuring that people have the right information and support to manage their healthcare needs.”

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