Children should be taught which illnesses can be treated at home, experts say.
Doctors and pharmacists have called for a “general culture shift” towards self-care.
Letting the public know when they should go to A&E or see their GP would help take the pressure off the NHS in future, they say.
Conditions like lower back pain, diarrhea, and the common cold can usually be treated at home.
Children should be taught which illnesses should bother the NHS and which can be self-treated, to help the system cope in future, experts say.
how to treat yourself
Common cold – While your body fights infection, you can treat your cold by resting, drinking plenty of water to prevent dehydration, eating healthy, and taking over-the-counter pain relievers.
Acute sinusitis – Your symptoms should improve in two to three weeks, but in the meantime you should drink plenty of fluids, take pain relievers, avoid allergy triggers, and stop smoking. You should also clean your nose with a salt water solution to relieve congestion.
Diarrhea – Most cases of diarrhea go away after a few days without treatment, but to avoid dehydration you should drink plenty of fluids, small, frequent sips of water. You should also eat small, light meals and avoid fatty or spicy foods.
lower back pain – Simple back exercises can help with back pain, along with hot and cold packs to ease discomfort. If back pain occurs more frequently, you should see a GP.
The experts suggested that children in both primary and secondary school be taught how to treat and manage some common health problems at home, creating a “positive cycle” of self-care and a “more sustainable health care service,” according to The times.
In the Self-Care Strategy Group paper, it was also suggested that medical students or pharmacists could offer lessons in schools on “self-care techniques” and how to recognize when NHS services are required.
in a letterThe group, a coalition of pharmaceutical bodies, GPs and patients, urged the government to adopt the plan to deal with the ongoing “winter crisis” of the NHS.
The group’s paper said it should focus on improving health literacy, citing a 2020 study called Dr. Me, where children were taught about vomiting and diarrhea, sore throat and fever, and minor injuries. and in the head.
There were 216 children involved in the lessons, in which they were given six scenarios and “asked to decide whether to stay home, visit the GP or go to the emergency department.”
Overall, correct answers to questions improved by 16.3%, and 93.3% of children felt more confident in caring for themselves.
The children’s understanding of how to treat and control vomiting and sore throat improved significantly with the workshops, with a 20.7% and 23.6% increase in correct answers, respectively.
In its call for government backing, the Self-Care Strategy Group cites research showing that before the pandemic, £1.5bn was spent on “inappropriate use of NHS services”.
Dr Graham Jackson, the group’s chairman, said GPs and A&Es are “overwhelmed” so it is “critical” that people consider whether or not they need to go.
However, he said not everyone feels safe making that call on their own and urged the government to do more to make sure information on self-treating conditions is available.
Dr. Jackson said that this information should be “accessible to everyone in society so that people are empowered to make those decisions for themselves.”
He added that ‘self-care does not mean no care’ and encouraged those who are unsure to first call NHS 111, or visit a local pharmacist, to protect the health service for ‘those who need it most’.
The document criticized the Department for Education’s current guidance on physical health and mental wellbeing, saying it “does not focus on self-care for self-treating conditions or the appropriate use of NHS services.”
Experts said self-care could reduce demand on the NHS sick and empower patients, as conditions such as lower back pain, acute sinusitis, diarrhea and the common cold can usually be treated without the need for a GP or emergency room. .
The experts said that with schools having to decide how they teach recommended content, there is a risk that self-care will continue to be seen as only preventative, rather than treatment.
The document also called for the Department of Health and Social Care to develop a national self-management strategy, including consultation with pharmacists, rather than GPs, who can refer patients when self-treatment is not appropriate.
Professor Kamila Hawthorne, president of the Royal College of GPs, supported the proposal, saying the earlier children learn these lessons, the more likely they are to carry them into adulthood and pass them on to their own children.
He added: “This should create a positive cycle and hopefully a healthier nation with a more sustainable healthcare service.”
A government spokesperson said: “A range of resources already exist to support self-care – all community pharmacies in England providing NHS services provide self-care advice and medicines, and we have created training modules for teachers on topics like basics first help.’
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