All-party group calls for national self-care strategy

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Primary Care and Public Health has called for a national self-care strategy, led by a minister, to tackle the number of people using A&E and GP resources for minor ailments.

The NHS has failed to respond to opportunities to manage rising demand against diminishing resource that a national self-care strategy would deliver, the group's report, published today, concluded. Group co-chair Bob Blackman MP said: "We all know A&E services should be reserved for life threatening emergencies, yet 3.7 million people a year are using A&E for issues that people could treat themselves at home or with advice from a pharmacist. Combined with around 52 million visits to GPs each year for self-treatable conditions, this inappropriate use of services has cost the NHS more than £10 billion over the last five years.

The report’s recommendations include:

  • NHS action to counter confusion over health signs and symptoms with clear information for consumers about the normal duration of symptoms and appropriate referrals for self-treatable conditions. This information, including red-flags, should be embedded into the algorithms for NHS 111 and on clinical systems such as EMIS, in order that people receive consistent information from the NHS.
  • A system-wide approach to improving health literacy, with educational messages focusing on the health benefits rather than the misery of poor health. As part of this, NHS Choices should develop a knowledge bank of information about conditions, symptoms and treatments to be developed and used across the NHS.
  • A switch in the NHS funding model away from reward being based solely on ‘care and repair’ activities to a funding system based on incentives and rewards for driving positive health outcomes and improved prevention.
  • The introduction of health education as a compulsory part of the PHSE curriculum, inspected by Ofsted, from age five to 18.

Virendra Sharma MP, co-chair of the group, said: “The APPG found a number of local initiatives to promote health literacy and wellbeing which proved the economic, social and health benefits of a wider, national self care strategy. The Living Well programme in Penrith, Cornwall had delivered a 30 per cent reduction in hospital emergency admissions, and it is estimated that Lincolnshire County Council’s Local Area Co-ordinators’ programme, which intervenes before vulnerable people need to engage health and social care services, delivers a social return of £15 for every £1 invested. We would like examples of best practice like this to be shared and adopted across the country.”

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