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Self care should be a lifestyle choice

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Dr Selwyn Hodge, Co-Chair of the Self Care Forum believes that Self Care Week, 14 – 20 November, presents a real opportunity for us all to work together for a healthier Britain.

Dr Selwyn Hughes: 'The basis of self-care is that we should all try to learn a bit more about how to keep ourselves and our nearest and dearest healthy, and what to do when things go wrong.'
Dr Selwyn Hodge: 'The basis of self-care is that we should all try to learn a bit more about keeping ourselves and our nearest and dearest healthy, and what to do when things go wrong.'

I have recently met quite a few individuals who argue that the furtherance of self-care approaches to health improvement is akin to the NHS attempting to abrogate some of its responsibilities for people’s well-being. I want to strongly refute this view.

Although higher levels of self-care among the population provide obvious ways of reducing the cost burden and some of the strain on the NHS, this is surely a good thing if the money and time saved can be used more effectively for treating those patients who have no other option than to place themselves in the hands of the health services.

From time to time, all of us suffer from minor ailments, or fairly trivial short term conditions such as colds and strained joints that right themselves fairly quickly. However, rather than then rushing to see a GP, or even worse paying an immediate visit to A&E, wouldn’t it be better if everyone learned a bit more about how to safely look after minor illnesses themselves, and where to obtain some appropriate help if needed - such as visiting a pharmacy for advice, perhaps, on over the counter medicines?

Too often we misuse the services of the NHS by not even trying to look after ourselves as much as we could; not just when we are ill, but also by failing to keep ourselves healthy in the first place  – such as taking plenty of exercise and eating sensibly.

self_care_forum.width-500There are lots of ways of finding out more about ways of achieving better all-round self-care, such as the NHS Choices website, or by having a chat with a pharmacist, or when we are seeing a nurse or a GP about something else.

Even better though, wouldn’t it be great if we actually taught our young people about health and self-care in their schools, so that they get a really good start in life to keeping themselves and, eventually, their children, fit and well?  So why not ask your MP to encourage the Government to make the teaching of health education in all schools a compulsory part of the curriculum. Not only will this be for life, it could also be a life-saver!

tvscreenimage-595x334The basis of self-care is that we should all try to learn a bit more about keeping ourselves and our nearest and dearest healthy, and what to do when things go wrong.

By doing this we not only help ourselves, but if everyone around us also got better at looking after themselves, we would all begin to live in much healthier neighbourhoods - for instance, there would be fewer occurrences of conditions such as head lice, and fewer infections caused by people not being vaccinated against conditions such as whooping cough. There would also be more time available for health professionals to attend to those people who really need their help.

In today’s increasingly complex and busy world, keeping ourselves healthy is everyone’s concern – not just our own, but also our neighbours, our health professionals and our politicians – so it isn’t just the responsibility of the NHS.

I know how grateful we all are for the NHS being there when we really need it, but we have to recognise that, unless we start doing more to help ourselves, our families and our neighbours, it might not survive the abuse we constantly give it!  So let’s all spread this message to as many people as we can during Self Care Week and aim for a healthier future.

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  1. Comment by Jacqueline Cotterell posted on

    Excellent advice. Starting my Paleo lifestyle today and new exercise and fitness programme. Having just completed a successful ageing course by FutureLearn I am now going to up my game for a better and healthier lifestyle.

    • Replies to Jacqueline Cotterell>

      Comment by Leonard Furnell posted on

      I think the expert paitent scheme should be funded to enable the public to think of being in partnership with health care professionals We should be looking after each of our health care needs/conditions to enable each of us taking the responsibility for our own health care. It becomes more essential when conditions get worse

  2. Comment by Robert Edmund Bright. B.Sc., A.R.C.S. posted on

    As a rowing coach ('Silver ' level) who has studied physiology for some decades now, I have a working but elementary knowledge of how to treat sickness and injury. I have normally treated myself for minor injuries. I have sourced information from the NHS website, and also the American Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical School.
    It would have been very helpful to have a local mutual self help group in which to participate and who could share information.
    As for encouraging the Government to place health and self care on the National Curriculum, I agree that this should be done. Also, First Aid should be on the Curriculum. However, a few years ago the Red Cross did ask us to write to our MPs to press for First Aid to be so included. However, although my MP did agree, he said that the bill then going through on the National Curriculum could not then be altered. It would be useful if we could be prompted as to any opportunity in the near future, when the Curriculum is again under scrutiny, to do some further lobbying.
    I would also say that, year after year, I have had to teach teenagers how to safely bend and lift before they can start boating! It is outrageous that so-called qualified P.E. teachers do not teach this, from a very early stage! How many injuries and bad backs would this save? What do these cost the NHS?

  3. Comment by M Wilson posted on

    I am always one for self care. My family are carriers of faulty genes. We have many illnesses related to inherited conditions. I have learnt from a very young age that to live as close to a normal life, I needed to self care.
    My health and wellbeing is my business and not that of the NHS.
    I only use the service when I absolutely must.
    it saves me a lot of trouble.

  4. Comment by Trevor Fossey posted on

    There would be enhanced engagement in self care if every citizen had online access to all Health & Social Care data and records about themselves, by default?
    Currently there is a 'mixed message' (a dichotomy) that says "we trust you to self care" but "we will not trust you with online access to your own health and social care records"!
    Citizens require evidence that they are to be trusted by the NHS (GPs & secondary care) and Social Services with their own health and wellbeing? The culture, especially in respect of Social Care, seems to be that individuals are not to be allowed (trusted) to see their own records - at least not without very significant, (and unwarranted, redaction (mainly to protect unjustified comments added to the records by Social Workers}

  5. Comment by Mrs Maureen RichardsMBE posted on

    Yes to a point I agree but for some people self treatment would not work. For instance I had a urine infection was prescribed antibiotics which were obviously not working, contacted surgery was told by reception to take some more prescription prepared. These were the same antibiotics as before, so took another sample of urine to reception asked it to be checked again and made an appointment to see a Dr when the results were in,visited asked for recommended new antibiotics started taking straight away. That night went out to drive my car hit the hedge and just missed two cars so went back home. The next morning started to write an address and could not read my own hand writing. Called surgery told no my gp was fully booked and was also fully booked to make any call back, only if it was an emergency, which I said it was. Thankfully this was sent through to my own gp who is very good but not always easy to get an appointment with He rang me back straight away and told me to come to see him straight away, as soon as he saw me he called for an ambulance. I had SEPSIS. Now the point I want to make is if I had been an elderly lady down the road she would have taken what the receptionist said and probably not questioned it at all and would not be alive to tell the tale.

  6. Comment by Denise Turner posted on

    When one is prescribed a medication for a condition that appears to be straight foreward and reports that it makes the condition worse not better the doctor changes it for another without fully checking to see if one has an allergy. Mine was changed 5 times.I visibly swelled and had to stop taking the medication offered. I was then sent to see an ear, nose and throat doctor who prescribed a course of steroid nose drops as my nose kept running. That stopped the nose running but not the cough. I put up with it for it had been going on for some 5 years after having bronchitis after a flu. I went on holiday to Paris, found I could not get my breath and had to call 112. My chest really hurt as I had been coughing all night. I had rung my surgery at 8am and it was suggested at noon I buy one of the medications I had been prescribed. I did, went back to hotel, took one and lay down for a sleep, woke up at 4pm unable to get my breath. The Parisien Hospital kept me in overnight to find out the cause of the cough, My heart was fine and my blood pressure good but they told me in the morning I had a rare form of bronchitis not often seen in France and it was triggered by an allergy to SUGAR. Most medications are coated in a sugar substance or contain it so now I have to check every food I eat. You would be surprized if you did not know before that absolutely everything in The UK contains high amounts of the poisonous stuff, The government has asked manufacturers to reduce it but I have seen a yogurt go up from 5.1% to 7.5% and now 14% sugar. This means that company is trying to hoodwink us and the government that they have reduced it from 14% back to a lower amount. The charlatans deserve to be boycotted. I am not at all pleased with the attitude of my doctor, "They go over the top in France", But following their advice I do not cough by carefully checking all that goes down my throat. Fortunately I had never become addicted to sugar as I had read a book published in the 60's called "Small, White and Deadly". Maybe it should be republished and given to all on the National Health at an early age.

  7. Comment by Mike posted on

    There will always be a disaster tale - a fact of life which can never be eliminated - not particularly relevant to the very sensible, highly relevant and practical proposals put forward in this article

  8. Comment by Pearl baker posted on

    Self Care sounds great in principle, but please don't think all are able to do this alone. If you suffer from a 'severe and enduring' Mental illness, with regular relapses it is NOT possible to think of anything other than your illness,

    Carer's are so busy caring and supporting those in the above 'group' they often have no time to Care for themselves.