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Self-care for life is a priority for the BMA. Self-Care Week is 18-24 November 2019; here’s why easy access to tailored information, which the public can trust, is vital.
Self-care is invaluable for both patients and the NHS. It improves our quality of life, potentially reduces the number of GP appointments and helps delay the onset of chronic conditions.
Self-care provides a set of strategies to help patients and the public achieve and maintain good physical and mental health and wellbeing. It involves individuals taking responsibility for their lifestyle choices, dealing with common symptoms and self-managing long-term conditions. It is based on patients recognising the impact that their lifestyle choices have on their health and having the knowledge and confidence to manage their condition.
Ease of access to information for all
It is important that information is easily accessible for all patients and the public to take more responsibility for our health. Access to information must take into account societal factors, eg poor literacy, difficulties with language and the number of people who do not use the internet. Difficulties with using strategies for self-care – as a result of poverty, homelessness and mental illness – could be barriers to achieving this.
Self-care advice and guidance is invaluable, eg support with specific conditions, such as the Axial Spondyloarthritis Know-how (ASK) toolkit, which is a useful way for patients to feel supported in gaining a good understanding of their condition and how it may affect their way of life. This toolkit also encourages feedback from its users.
Monitoring self-care opportunities and tailoring support for the individual
Other initiatives for maintaining health and wellbeing, such as healthy walking groups, are also invaluable for facilitating self-care. Feedback should be sought after (in a non-judgmental way), on why these initiatives may not work for everyone, and remedies should be put in place. Except for mitigating the potentially negative impact on individuals of the experience of dropping out of a programme, these follow-ups would give feedback on how particular self-care opportunities could be tailored to meet the variety of patient needs.
Encouraging and fostering a culture that effectively supports us ALL to think of self-care for life is essential.
Lesley Bentley is chair of the BMA’s patient liaison group
Read more about the BMA patient liaison group resources and self-care