Blog

What does ‘self-care’ mean and how can it help?

Self-care is about keeping fit and healthy, understanding when you can look after yourself, when a pharmacist can help, and when to get advice from your GP or another health professional. If you have a long-term condition, self-care is about understanding that condition and how to live with it. This year’s Self Care Week takes place from November 13-19 and the theme is Embracing Self Care for Life. Bruce Warner, Deputy Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, explains what the week means to him. 

It’s Self Care Week – the week designed to help people to look after their own health.

It got me thinking… The words ‘self-care’ are bandied around by the NHS, but what does it actually mean?

And is it a good option when we feel ill?

Self-care is recommended when you have a minor condition which doesn’t normally need medical care (from a doctor or nurse) or any treatment in order to get better.

In practice this means a person decides that they can manage their illness without seeing a doctor.

This may be because they don’t like taking remedies or pills, or because they believe they will recover just as quickly if they stay at home and rest until their illness goes away of its own accord. Or they may pop out to buy medicines over the counter at a pharmacy. Either way, ‘self-care’ is something millions of us do every day – for positive and practical reasons.

But what if you feel you need some advice before you are able to self-care? For instance, if you’re not sure if your condition is minor, or one that goes away of its own accord, i.e. a virus, or if you just want advice on how to relieve the symptoms.

The good news is, your local pharmacist can help you.

Local pharmacies provide NHS services in the same way as GP practices – and pharmacists train for five years in the use of medicines before they qualify as health professionals. What’s more, it’s a walk-in service, open all day.

A pharmacist will assess symptoms and consider any long-term conditions, and the medicines that you’re taking, before providing a recommendation. They will either:

  • Support/advise you in your decision to self-care.
  • Sell you an ‘over the counter’ medicine (which doesn’t need a prescription or visit to a GP) that will help relieve symptoms and make you more comfortable.
  • Signpost you to the right medical care if you need it.

This help and advice is available at over 11,000 local pharmacies, without any appointment being needed, within your local area, and often into the evenings.

These are the common conditions that I suggest people can often manage for themselves:

  • Coughs and colds
  • Sprains and strains
  • Sore throat
  • Sinusitis
  • Earache
  • Constipation
  • Headache

If you’re unsure about which conditions you should be managing yourself, or how to manage them, see your local pharmacist.

So I hope you can try to self-care this winter.

For details of your nearest local pharmacy, and opening hours, go to the Find Pharmacy Services pages on the NHS Choices website.

Dr Bruce Warner

Dr Bruce Warner works closely with the Chief Pharmaceutical Officer on the strategic and operational development of medicines policy for NHS England. Prior to this post,

Bruce worked as Deputy Director of Patient Safety at the NPSA and in NHS England where he led on the strategy for patient safety improvement and headed up the patient safety advice and guidance function.

Bruce has worked in most sectors of pharmacy including community, hospital, academia and at a PCG/T. He is also a visiting Professor of Pharmacy Practice at the University of Huddersfield.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

2 comments

  1. Kassander says:

    A pharmacist will assess symptoms and consider any long-term conditions, and the medicines that you’re taking, before providing a recommendation.

    Which assumes that the patient knows the details of any medications which they may be taking. Many don’t which is recognized by NHS Hospitals which ask patients attending for a consultation to bring their packaged medications with them.

  2. Kassander says:

    “Sell you an ‘over the counter’ medicine (which doesn’t need a prescription or visit to a GP) that will help relieve symptoms”

    When the Pharmacist First scheme started they were authorized to dispense a limited # of items which would normally need a prescription.
    Since your essay doesn’t mention either the “scheme” or the “authorization” one can but assume they’ve been dis-continued.

    Is that so?

    If so, why?