GPs must educate patients to cut demand on NHS, ministers say

GPs must play 'a key role' in educating patients about self-treatment to help manage demand on the NHS, ministers have said.

Earl Howe: patients needed to be educated and supported to help them manage their own conditions.
Earl Howe: patients needed to be educated and supported to help them manage their own conditions.

Health minister Earl Howe made the call in a speech this week and health secretary Andrew Lansley raised the issued in his annual report on the NHS earlier this week.

Earl Howe told to the annual conference of the Proprietary Association of Great Britain (PAGB) that good self-care by patients relied on patients and professionals talking and working together.

‘GPs have a key role in that,’ he added. ‘With proper support from the NHS and professionals, like GPs and pharmacists, people can take more responsibility for their own health and wellbeing and reduce the burden on the NHS.’

Earl Howe said patients needed to be educated and supported to help them manage their own conditions.

‘Patients who are supported like this have better health outcomes and by reducing the workload on the healthcare system overall, they contribute towards better care for everyone,’ he said.

'Investing in better support for self-care can help the NHS move forward to a system where services are used more appropriately and better meet the needs of the local population.’

Mr Lansley also argued in his annual report on the NHS earlier this week, that improved self-care could reduce demands on the NHS, while driving up healthcare quality.

‘Supporting self-care has the potential to improve quality, but also reduce the demand for health and care services,’ he said.

‘Similarly, rehabilitation and reablement services have the potential to significantly improve quality, by easing the transition from acute treatment to home or community health services.’

Former GPC deputy chairman Dr Simon Fradd, an architect of the current GMS contract, told the PAGB conference that educating patients about self-care was ‘massively important’ as it affected budgets across the NHS.

‘The self-care agenda is not just minor, self-limiting conditions, it is everything up to recovering from major trauma and we need to remember that,' he said.

Dr Fradd said the NHS needed to 'empower the public to involve themselves in the more critical areas of care'.

He added: ‘Far from being trivial, minor self-limiting conditions are costing a massive resource in the NHS, because people who see their GP are going to A&E. A&E is admitting patients, because they can’t break the four-hour waits.’

Dr Fradd said ‘a few coughs and colds’ could result in people being kept in intensive care units for additional days because of a lack of available hospital beds elsewhere.

‘Let’s not trivialise this,’ he said. ‘This is massively important, and not least because it improves outcomes for patients.’

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