Encouraging people to embrace self care for life

Engaging and empowering people to look after their own health better is the theme of this year’s Self Care Week which launches today.

Whether it is about self-treatable conditions, long term conditions, or lifestyle choices to ensure better physical health and mental wellbeing, this week raises awareness of the huge benefits of people looking after themselves better.

Organised by the Self Care Forum, the key messages include:

  • Understand how to be healthy for all your life.
  • Self care from the cradle to the grave.
  • Understand how to self care for the important people in your life.
  • Make self care a life-long habit.

Hilary Garratt, Director of Nursing in NHS England and Deputy Chief Nursing Officer for England, explained the importance of self care, not least of all  as we go into winter, saying: “ When I visit front line services, I regularly see the challenges and pressures that staff face across the NHS. Nurses, GPs, Consultants and many other NHS professionals work hard throughout the year and I know it’s particularly challenging over winter. That’s why it’s important to raise awareness about the importance of self care and provide information and advice so people can manage their own health needs where possible.”

Dr Selwyn Hodge, co-chair of the Self Care Forum, explained: “Effective self-care is a lifelong process of skill and knowledge development. It’s essential, therefore, that every opportunity is taken to supplement and update people’s health literacy throughout life in school, college, workplace and leisure time activities.

“Self-care week is an ideal time for this to be recognised and supported in all parts of the country.”

Fellow co-chair Dr Pete Smith, added: “It’s about helping everyone take care of themselves, not just those living with long term conditions. Self care is nothing less than actions to lead to a happier, healthier and more fulfilling life.”

Pritti Mehta, NHS England’s New Care Models lead for self care, said: “Across the new care models programme, we are supporting 25,000 people to manage their conditions, building their skills, knowledge and confidence to take greater control of their health and wellbeing through tailored health coaching or self-management education.

“Four in 10 people with long-term conditions don’t feel they have the ability to manage their own health and care. It’s crystal clear – we need to do more to support people to self care – by systematically implementing ‘what works’.”

There are also key mental health messages and people are encouraged to keep active, doing at least 30 minutes of exercise a day as this is key to both long term physical health and mental wellbeing.

Self Care Week also reinforces important messages about winter and encourages people, especially those with long term conditions, to use their pharmacist – the “health professional in the High Street” – and to use NHS Choices online to check their conditions.

As well as talking to their local pharmacist about managing their medicines, and to ensure they don’t run out of medication as we go into the festive holiday period, people are also encouraged to seek advice about how common ailments might have an acute effect on long term conditions.

Patients are also asked to avoid going to busy hospital A&E departments with a cough or cold and to treat themselves or seek advice from their GP or pharmacist.  The message is:

“A&E is for life threatening emergencies only – understand which health service is suitable for your health needs.”

Other key messages being driven home this week include advice on occupational health and ensuring people read instructions on medicines especially if they are driving or lifting heavy machinery, and also not to take antibiotics for sore throats, coughs and colds, as they don’t work on them, and overuse of antibiotics is making them ineffective.