Self Care Week’s message for healthy living

Cartoon image of a variety of people holding a banner showing the dates of Self Care WeekNHS staff, patients and carers are being urged to support and help raise awareness of Self Care Week next month.

The theme for the week, running from 16 to 22 November, is ‘Self Care for Life’ and aims to help people understand what they can do to better look after their own health and that of their family, as well as living as healthily as possible.

Dr Martin McShane, NHS England’s National Medical Director for Long Term Conditions, said: “Self Care for Life is a vital campaign that looks at health across the spectrum, from coughs, colds and flu to self care for long term conditions like Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and lung conditions.

“By supporting people to help themselves, we can not only improve quality of life for individuals but also use NHS services even more effectively, particularly with winter approaching when we all know our A&E services and GPs face huge demands,” he said.

“Self Care for Life helps raise awareness with people about how they can safely treat minor ailments such as colds or fever, as well as how they can also live healthily and prevent avoidable but more serious problems with long terms conditions such as Type 2 diabetes or heart disease.

“Helping people to help themselves is a two-way partnership between individuals and the NHS to provide information, tools, support and care to allow people to stay well and use health services appropriately.”

The national awareness campaign is run by the Self Care Forum. The aim for the week is for people-facing organisations such as GP surgeries, CCGs, pharmacies, dentists, local authorities and the voluntary and community sector, to use it as a focus to increase people’s ability to self care and improve their levels of health literacy.

As winter approaches, the message from Self Care Week includes reminding people to ensure their medicine cabinet is well stocked and how they can get help and advice on symptoms from their pharmacist.

There is also information about how people can take steps to prevent avoidable conditions such as type-2 diabetes, heart disease and lung conditions such as COPD. It reminds them that information and advice is also available from their pharmacist to help them stop smoking, manage their weight and choose healthy options to protect their physical health and mental wellbeing. NHS Choices also has lots of helpful information.

Self Care for Life also advises on long term conditions, prompting patients to use their medications appropriately and staying as healthy as they can. They are also advised to seek further support from their GP or nurse on how to manage their condition, or to join a local support group.

The Self Care Forum has been running its annual awareness campaign since 2011, with the ethos being to further the reach of self care and have it embedded into everybody’s everyday life.

In the run up to Self Care Week, the Annual Self Care Conference is being staged on 11 November in London and is free to people working in healthcare and public health.  It will be a practical conference to help inform and inspire those working in the NHS and public health to support patients to look after their own health better and improve their health literacy.

Dr Pete Smith, a GP and co-Chair of the Forum, said: “Achieving Self Care for Life will be the focus for the conference this year and our objective is to listen to service users about what they need to help them self care, present practical ways in which self care can be embedded into pathways and to identify what support front line staff need at the national and local level to enable this to happen.”