The background to a national self-care strategy


Since 2019, representatives from medical royal colleges, professional organisations and trade associations representing clinicians, commissioners, suppliers, pharmacies and manufacturers of self-care medicines, medical devices and food supplements have joined together to forge a clinical consensus on how best to support self-care in England.

This group worked together in 2019 to develop a Clinical Consensus Statement on Self-Care, which set out seven recommendations for supporting the development of policies to encourage and enable self-care for self-treatable conditions. We reconvened as a group in response to the pandemic, recognising the significant impact COVID-19 has had on the way people use NHS services. As a result of the changes in the environment, we updated our recommendations to harness the opportunities of innovation across the NHS to empower more people to take ownership of their health and wellbeing.

At the time, we recognised the urgent need for more to be done to support the development of a national self-care strategy. Despite the widely recognised benefits of self-care, policies to support self-care were not being implemented consistently throughout the NHS and national policy has been focused elsewhere to support NHS recovery. To this end, we set out as a group to develop our own blueprint for a self-care strategy,. This is set out in our document Realising the potential: Developing a blueprint for a self-care strategy for England, published in October 2021.

Download blueprint self-care strategy

Hear from our partners and guest speakers with an overview of our blueprint self-care strategy, case studies and Q&A.

Watch the video

Download a PAGB briefing on the optimal self-care pathway

Self-care pathway infographic

Why do we need a self-care strategy?

A national self-care strategy should seek to support the entirety of the self-care continuum, from healthy living, self-treatable conditions and minor ailments through to long-term conditions.

The last national strategy for self-care, Self-Care – A Real Choice, was published in 2005. Since then the NHS has successfully supported the self-management of long-term conditions but there are opportunities to support people to self-care for self-treatable conditions that have not been fully realised.

Meanwhile, the way people access information and care has been transformed by technology and the COVID-19 pandemic highlighting the important role that digital tools (e.g. symptom checkers and digital triage apps) can play in helping people to self-care for self-treatable conditions.

As the NHS seeks to recover from the most recent wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a unique window of opportunity to integrate self-care behaviours into the NHS and people’s lives.

18 million GP appointments and 3.7 million A&E visits for self-treatable conditions

before the COVID-10 pandemic
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were an estimated 18 million GP appointments and 3.7 million A&E visits a year for self-treatable conditions. Since the outbreak started, people with self-treatable conditions have not been able to visit a GP in the traditional manner and so have learnt – or at least practised – self-care behaviours instead.
Download blueprint self-care strategy

A ten-year vision for self-care

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the ways in which the Government promotes, and the public considers, self-care.

Looking forward to the health system’s recovery and the Government’s long-term aspirations for the NHS, it will be critical that these new behaviours are integrated into how people interact with the NHS. The Government should be ambitious in its vision for self-care and in ten years’ time:

  • Individuals should understand and be willing to practise self-care, knowing how to take care of themselves and where to go when they are feeling unwell.

  • There should be a cultural shift among healthcare professionals, towards wellbeing and away from the biomedical model of care, supporting individuals to incorporate self-care into their own care continuums by 2030.

  • The system should be designed to support self-care, with pharmacy being much more integrated in the primary care pathway and clear routes to self-care across primary and secondary care.

  • Digital technology should be used to its fullest potential to encourage self-care wherever appropriate, empowering individuals to consider options for self-care at all points on the care pathway.

Between 43% and 61% of working age adults in England

do not routinely understand health information
This directly impedes their ability to practise self-care across the self-care continuum. For example, the Patient Information Forum’s 2019/2020 survey on health and digital literacy found 43% of working age adults would struggle to understand instructions to calculate a childhood paracetamol dose.
Download blueprint self-care strategy

The main components of a national self-care strategy

Click on the crosses to read more

A national self-care strategy should include:

  • Addressing inequalities in health literacy by incorporating health literacy into ongoing activities across the NHS to reduce health inequalities and improve self-care.
  • Enhancing the national curriculum on self-care for primary and secondary age children to boost understanding of self-care and embed a lifelong culture of self-care to help the population to stay well.
  • Introducing self-care modules in healthcare professionals’ training curricula and continuing professional development to ensure that healthcare professionals have the awareness and strong knowledge base required to support patients to self-care.
  • Making best use of, and expanding, the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service to maximise the opportunities to direct people to self-care.
  • Improving access to effective treatments to further promote self-care behaviour, giving people faster, easier access to medicines, whilst reinforcing the role of the pharmacist as a healthcare professional.
  • Enabling community pharmacists to refer people directly to other health professionals and ensure these pathways are digitally enabled.
  • Ensuring better support for Primary Care Networks (PCNs) to deliver self-care by introducing clearly-defined standards of care for supporting self-care and ensuring that all PCNs appoint a self-care lead.
  • Evaluating the use of technologies that have been developed during the COVID-19 pandemic to promote greater self-care and include them on the NHS website in an easy-to-navigate central hub for self care alongside improvements to NHS 111 triage algorithms to encourage greater self-care.
  • Accelerating efforts to enable community pharmacists to populate medical records through the creation of a centralised web-based system to help them to provide better support for people.

For each of these components, the blueprint explores the challenges and existing support within the self-care continuum, as well as the steps necessary to bring about change and the organisations the Department of Health and Social Care may wish to work with to build upon progress.

Only 42% of GP practices supported their patients to self-care

in a 2018 RCGP survey
despite 67% of GPs believing that supporting more patients to self-care would help reduce their workload.
Download blueprint self-care strategy


To meet the ambitions set out in the blueprint, a new system needs to be created which fully integrates the promotion of everyday wellbeing, self-care for self-treatable conditions and the management of long-term conditions into the wider health system.

Download blueprint self-care strategy

Support for a self-care strategy

The blueprint has been endorsed by:

The Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies
Company Chemists’ Association
National Association of Primary Care
NHS Clinical Commissioners
National Pharmacy Association
Royal College of Nursing
Royal Pharmaceutical Society
Self Care Forum


Support the call for a national self-care strategy

There are many ways you can support us in calling for a national self-care strategy – check out some suggestions here.
If you’re interested in getting involved or just want to find out more, we’d love to hear from you.

Thank you for your message. We will be in touch.
There was an error trying to send your message. Please try again later or email us at selfcare@pagb.co.uk