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Self care: Councils helping people look after themselves

Case studies

We talk a lot about person-centred care these days; the idea that services should be focussed around the needs of the individual rather than the service.

Well, self care is exactly that. It is about giving people choice and control by helping them to decide how best to protect, maintain or improve their health and wellbeing.

It can include getting people to live healthier lives by drinking sensibly, quitting smoking, and exercising more. Or it may involve taking medications and treating minor ailments by yourself, while knowing when and how best to seek help if needed. And for people with long-term conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes, it can be used to refer to the self-management of disease whereby patients take charge of aspects such as blood pressure and cholesterol monitoring. That does not mean simply teaching a patient how to use a piece of equipment. It is about supporting them to make decisions that are matched to their preferences and views.

Whatever the situation, there is one thing all people who self care have in common: they feel empowered and confident to take responsibility for their own health. Not only is this good for the individual, it is also important for the health and care system which is under more strain than ever.

If you want proof of that, look at what is happening in GP surgeries up and down the land. About a fifth of consultations are taken up by people with minor conditions. This costs the NHS about £2 billion a year and takes up an hour of the average GP’s day.

Despite this, research shows people do not always feel confident or able to self care or are too quick to abandon it. Councils working with their local partners can play a vital role trying to address this.

We can support patients and teach them how to look after themselves. We can encourage them to make lifestyle changes that will improve their health in the long-term. We can provide the equipment and know-how so they can self-manage their illnesses. The starting point for all is working out what matters to the person – and helping them achieve that.

In this Local Government Association (LGA) report you will find examples of all of these approaches – and more. Councils and clinical commissioning groups are working together with other partners to make a real difference to people’s lives.