Encouraging Self-Care – What’s The Answer?

As the NHS faces another tough winter this year, measures are being put in place to try and help the system cope with the demand. Encouraging self-care is an important step that can be help alleviate the pressures faced by the NHS. By encouraging people to take better care of themselves and treat common, minor health conditions at home, GP appointments could be freed up for those with greater need.

Why encouraging self-care is required

Encouraging self-care is an important factor for dealing with the growing pressure faced by the healthcare service. The cost associated with treating many health conditions, including Type-2 diabetes, as a result of obesity, is rising. It’s often said that self-care is the answer, but how can it be encouraged amongst patients?

Insurer Vitality has conducted research on the positive effects of rewards on helping people to live healthier lifestyles. Using their ‘Vitality Active Rewards’ system, they found that people who took part and had an Apple Watch had a 34% increase in their activity levels, providing some unique insights into how improvements in lifestyle and behaviours could be made through different incentives.

As part of the scheme, users paid much less than the RRP for the Apple Watch, under the condition that they used it. According to the researchers, the thought of having to pay more for the watch was a good incentive to help them stay active. Other incentives given to insurance customers included items like free cinema tickets for being more active. With a sample of 400,000 people, the results of the research offer some interesting insight into how rewards can be used to encourage healthier habits.

How can GPs encourage self-care

While health trusts do not have the funding of global insurance companies to offer such incentives, there are things that can be done to help patients practice better self-care. One example is an initiative offered by Greater Manchester Health and Social Care to provide shopping vouchers to pregnant women who give up smoking.

With funding low, particularly during this time of year, much of what GPs can do relies on the ‘nudge theory’, to help encourage people to take better care of themselves. With many people seeking help from their GP at the first sign of a health issue, nudging patients towards pharmacies in future can be one way to cut the numbers of those sat in waiting rooms waiting for GP appointments. Presenting the alternatives to patients could help with encouraging self-care and allow patients to explore the many health services that are available to them.

Other ways of encouraging self-care might involve advising on healthy lifestyle choices to reduce the risk of developing type-2 diabetes, as well as other serious conditions such as heart disease. By providing assistance in tackling obesity and encouraging a healthier, more active lifestyle, patients could see the long-term benefits of living a healthier present.

Educating patients on the range of services that exist is important. By highlighting the out of hours services available, patients can find ways of seeking treatment without having to make a GP appointment, saving waiting rooms for those with the most urgent needs.