Exclusive: GPs believe patients uninterested in self-care

GP survey reveals fears patients use self-care inappropriately GPs oppose wider OTC drug access.

Two-thirds of GPs think patients are not increasing their use of self-care, despite government efforts to encourage it, a GP survey shows.

The 2006 White Paper 'Our Health, Our Care, Our Say' aimed to put patients at the centre of their own care planning.

The DoH has since launched guidance setting out seven 'core principles' to support self-care, which cover improving access to education and tools to facilitate it.

Of 423 GPs who responded to the survey, 65 per cent did not think their patients were taking an increasing interest in self-care for minor conditions.

Of those who thought patients were becoming increasingly interested, only 27 per cent thought they were undertaking self-care appropriately.

'However many times we instruct patients, they want reassurance for minor illness, which they don't feel is minor,' one respondent said.

'Often patients do use over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, but abuse of these can mask or compound problems,' another commented.

Many respondents backed encouraging patients to manage minor ailments themselves, but thought patients needed to be better educated about medicines.

'A few well-educated patients are benefiting but the majority remain poorly informed and confused,' one GP wrote.

Respondents also supported a greater role for pharmacy and self-care in the management of minor conditions.

'We are on the right track with pharmacists getting more involved in medicines management and advice for minor ailments,' one GP argued.

'Minor ailment services in pharmacies should be standard,' another commented.

The survey also revealed that, while most GPs thought OTC access to medicines should stay as it is, 32 per cent believed access should be widened.

'Patients should be able to access medicines such as antibiotics and salbutamol inhalers, in consultation with the pharmacist,' one GP wrote.

'More prescription-only medicines should be available online where there are straightforward indications with little potential for harm,' another said.

tom.moberly@haymarket.com

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