What is self-care?

Self-care is when people manage simple, short-term conditions themselves, e.g. sore throats and colds, meaning they only visit the GP when they need to. It gives people greater control of their own health and encourages healthy behaviours that help prevent ill health in the long-term. People have a responsibility to protect their own health, choosing appropriate treatments and managing long-term conditions. In many cases people can take care of their minor ailments, reducing the number of GP consultations and allowing GPs to focus on caring for more poorly patients, such as those with co-morbidities (more than one illness), the very young and elderly, managing long-term conditions and providing new services.

A large range of common illnesses and injuries can be treated at home simply with over-the-counter medicines and plenty of rest.

Self-care is widely acknowledged as an important solution to help keep the NHS sustainable. Nationally there are 57 million GP consultations each year for minor conditions and this costs the NHS approximately £2 billion and takes up to an hour a day on average for every GP.

How to self-care

Even a minor illness and ailments such as colds, headaches and diarrhoea can disrupt your life. Be prepared for most common ailments by keeping a well-stocked medicine cabinet at home. Always follow the directions on medicine packets and information leaflets, and never take more than the stated dose. If you have questions about any of these medicines or you want to buy them, ask your local pharmacist. They can give advice or, where appropriate, medicines that can help to clear up the problem. Instead of booking an appointment with your GP, you can see your local pharmacist any time: just walk in.

Always keep medicines out of the sight and reach of children. A high, lockable cupboard in a cool, dry place is ideal. Regularly check the expiry dates on a medicine. If a medicine is past its use-by date, don’t use it or throw it away. Take it to your pharmacy, where it can be disposed of safely.

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