UK patients urged to self-care ahead of vaccine roll-out

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GPs in the UK have been urged to encourage patients to self-care, in advance of the anticipated roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines and the extra workload this will create.

Findings of a survey from the digital self-care platform Healthily show GPs reported half of all appointments are for conditions that could have been managed by patients themselves.

The medically-approved self-care platform is this month launching its #LiveHealthily campaign encouraging people from the UK to take control of their health.

The survey of 2,200 adults and 100 GPs showed that 67% of family doctors urged patients to take greater responsibility for their own health and relieve pressure on the NHS as restrictions continue.

Findings of the survey carried out by Census Wide showed that 41% of GPs would urge people to practise better self-care and stay away from surgeries unless “absolutely necessary”.

The common cold tops the list of conditions GPs are encouraging people to self-manage at 60% followed by cold sores (47%), insect bites (45%), simple sprains (45%) and dandruff (44%).

The Local Government Association has found 1 in 5 GP appointments are for minor ailments, including headaches, heartburn or a blocked nose, which people can treat themselves.

Minor conditions are responsible for 57 million GP visits and 3.7 million A&E admissions every year, costing the NHS over £2 billion.

Previous research by Healthily has shown that instead of accessing NHS services during the lockdown, more than one in ten (12%) have turned to healthcare apps or websites for advice and support since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in the UK.

Of those, four in ten (41%) reported doing so in order to relieve pressure on the NHS. Almost a fifth of all respondents (17%) self-treated an illness they would usually contact a clinician for, such as headaches, an upset stomach, or splinters.

Commenting on the findings Professor Maureen Baker, former chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners and chief medical officer at Healthily said: “We must ensure that we are doing our best to relieve pressure on GPs and NHS staff during this difficult time.

“The pandemic has had a huge impact on society, but it has also helped the public to embrace self-care, that is a positive thing when there are so many things people can manage themselves.”