Survey suggests public lacks confidence to treat some common conditions

More than half of people (52%) do not feel confident in treating backache and over a quarter of people (27%) would go to their GP or A&E for conditions that they could treat themselves at home, a survey on self-care attitudes has revealed.

PAGB, the consumer healthcare association, surveyed over 2,000 adults across the UK about their attitudes towards self-care and access to health services. According to the survey, the public is in favour of self-care but many people lack the confidence and knowledge to care for the most common self-treatable conditions including backaches, headaches, diarrhoea and constipation. Four in five respondents (79%) said that people should take more responsibility for their own health and three-quarters (73%) believe that the NHS should make self-treatment easier.

Behaviours around the current use of pharmacy varied – with less than half (44%) using community pharmacists as their first step in getting advice on self-treatable conditions – but longer term attitudes were encouraging, with 69% supporting the idea of GPs being able to make referrals to pharmacists. Respondents also supported expanding the role of pharmacists so that their skills can be better utilised.

The Self-Care Attitudes 2022 survey report, released to coincide with the start of Self Care Week (14-20th November), concludes that “Government must act now to harness the positive move towards self-care and lock in the changes of this time-limited opportunity”.

The survey also found:

  • 35% of total respondents said that self-care was always their first option and that this is something they would continue to practise.
  • Two-thirds (64%) of respondents who would have not considered self-care as their first option before the pandemic said they were more likely to do so in the future (although this is down from 69% in PAGB’s 2020 survey).
  • Three-quarters of respondents (73%) agreed that GP and A&E appointments should not be used for self-treatable conditions.
  • One in five respondents (23%) said they would not feel comfortable self-treating a headache, whilst a third would be uncertain about how to treat constipation (34%) and diarrhoea (33%).

Read the results of PAGB’s 2022 Self Care Survey

Commenting on the survey results, Janet Morrison, PSNC Chief Executive, said:

“The COVID-19 pandemic saw a significant shift towards self-care and growing public reliance on community pharmacies and from the reports we are getting from pharmacies the demand for advice and support is showing no signs of slowing down. The PAGB Survey results once again highlight just how many people would like their community pharmacies to be able to do even more to help them.

If the Government and NHS really want to make a dent in the COVID backlog and build a sustainable healthcare system for the future, they must continue to develop self-care confidence amongst the public, and community pharmacy can help with that. PSNC has long called for pharmacy to be used as the first port of call for people seeking advice and support in managing minor illness, however, we cannot ignore the growing pressures community pharmacy teams are facing. These cost and capacity pressures must be urgently addressed by Government and the NHS before the public loses these community assets. A fully funded ‘Pharmacy First’ service would help to address some of these issues.”


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