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Winter messages highlighted at Self Care Conference

Tim Kelsey will today drive home important messages for the public as part of the high profile Stay Well This Winter campaign.

NHS England’s National Director for Patients and Information will highlight the need for people to help the NHS this winter by taking care of themselves and others when he addresses the Annual Self Care Conference at the Royal College of Nursing in London.

As he officially launches Self Care Week 2015, which runs from 16 to 22 November, Tim Kelsey will say: “To improve public health and reduce pressures on the NHS, it’s vital that people are supported to care for their own and their family’s health and understand when to access NHS services and when to self-care.

“Both Self Care Week and the NHS winter campaign, ‘Stay Well This Winter’, are aimed at equipping people with this knowledge, for example by encouraging people to visit the pharmacist for advice about winter ailments and promoting the flu vaccination.”

Among the key messages in the winter campaign being run by NHS England jointly with Public Health England are:

  • Look out for family, friends and neighbours – particularly the frail and elderly;
  • Make sure get your flu jab;
  • Keep yourself warm;
  • Use your pharmacist;
  • Stock up with cold and flu remedies;
  • Don’t run out of prescription medicines;
  • Ensure you take your regular medication for existing conditions;
  • If you feel unwell, get advice or treatment immediately from your GP.

Tim Kelsey’s attempt to drive home winter messaging to the public to help alleviate pressures on front line health services, such as A&E, comes as new research commissioned by the Self Care Forum suggests young people need more information and support on how to use the NHS appropriately.

The research by PAGB, which represents the consumer healthcare industry and is a partner in the Stay Well This Winter campaign, has found that younger people are using A&E more to access health advice than older age groups.

While 18-24 year olds are more likely than other age groups to use Google and NHS Choices to search for health information, at 42% they are the most regular users of A&E compared with 20% of people aged 55 and over.

Pharmacy, however, is comparatively underutilised with just 52% of younger people using it for advice, compared with 65% of the 55 years and older group. This is despite 99% of the population being able to get to a pharmacy within 20 minutes by car and 96% by walking or using public transport

The theme of Self Care Week 2015 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, has urged NHS staff, patients and carers to support and help raise awareness of Self Care Week saying: “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.”

“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.

Dr Pete Smith, a GP and co-Chair of the Self Care 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.”

  • Stay Well This Winter roadshows are visiting destinations across England until 5 December 2015.
  • For further information about how you and your family can stay well this winter, please visit the Stay Well website.
  • For more information and resources on Self Care Week go to selfcareforum.org or email libby.whittaker@selfcareforum.org and sign up for Self Care Forum updates.

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