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Children need to be taught ‘not to harass NHS’: strategy paper requires massive ‘cultural shift’

Children need to be taught which diseases to bother the NHS with and which ones they can take care of themselves, to help the system cope in the future, experts have said.

In a new strategy paper, doctors and pharmacists have called for a “wholesale culture shift” to self-care for some conditions.

They said this could reduce demand for the ailing NHS and empower patients, as conditions such as low back pain, acute sinusitis, diarrhea and the common cold can generally be treated without the need for a GP or emergency room.

The experts suggested that children in both primary and secondary school should learn how to treat and manage some common health problems at home, creating a “positive cycle” of self-care and a “more sustainable health care system,” according to The Times.

Children need to be taught what illnesses to bother the NHS with and what they can take care of themselves, to help the system cope in the future, experts have said

How to pamper yourself

Common cold – While your body is fighting infections, you can self-treat your cold by resting, drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration, eating a healthy diet, and taking over-the-counter pain relievers.

Acute sinusitis – Your symptoms should improve within two to three weeks, but in the meantime you should drink plenty of fluids, take painkillers, avoid allergic triggers and stop smoking. You should also cleanse your nose with a salt water solution to relieve congestion.

Diarrhea – Most cases of diarrhea go away after a few days without treatment, but to avoid dehydration you should drink plenty of fluids – small sips of water regularly. You should also eat small, light meals and avoid fatty or spicy foods.

Lower back pain – Simple back exercises can help with back pain, in addition to hot and cold compresses to relive discomfort. If back pain occurs more often, you should consult a doctor.

The Self-Care Strategy Group document also suggested that medical students or pharmacists could teach classes in schools on ‘self-care techniques’ and how to recognize when NHS services are needed.

In a letter, the group – a coalition of pharmacy bodies and GPs and patients – urged the government to approve the plan to deal with the NHS’s current ‘winter crisis’.

The group’s paper said there should be a focus on improving health literacy, citing a 2020 study called Dr. Me – where children were taught about vomiting and diarrhea, sore throat and fever, and minor injuries and head injuries.

216 children were involved in the lessons – in which they were presented with six scenarios and ‘instructed to decide whether to stay at home, go to the GP or go to the emergency room’.

Overall, correct answers to questions improved by 16.3 percent and 93.3 percent of children were more confident in self-care.

The children’s understanding of how to treat and manage vomiting and sore throat improved significantly with the workshops, with a 20.7 percent and 23.6 percent increase in correct answers, respectively.

In their call for government support, the Self-Care Strategy Group cite research showing £1.5bn was spent on ‘improper use of NHS services’ before the pandemic.

Dr. Graham Jackson, the chair of the group, said GPs and ERs are “overwhelmed” so it’s “critical” for people to consider whether to go or not.

However, he said not all people are confident in making that call themselves and urged the government to do more to ensure that information is available on self-treatable conditions.

Dr. Jackson said this information should be “accessible to everyone in society so that people are empowered to make those decisions for themselves.”

He added that ‘self-care does not mean no care’ and encouraged those unsure to first call NHS 111 or visit a local pharmacist to protect healthcare for ‘those who need it most’ .

The newspaper criticized the current Department of Education for guidance on physical health and mental well-being, saying it “does not focus on self-care for self-treatable conditions or on the appropriate use of NHS services.”

Experts said self-care could reduce demand for the ailing NHS and make patients stronger, as conditions such as low back pain, acute sinusitis, diarrhea and the common cold can generally be managed without the need for a GP or emergency room.

Experts said self-care could reduce demand for the ailing NHS and make patients stronger, as conditions such as low back pain, acute sinusitis, diarrhea and the common cold can generally be managed without the need for a GP or emergency room.

The experts said that if schools are left to decide how to teach the recommended content, there is a risk that self-care will become seen only as a preventative rather than a treatment.

The newspaper also called on the Ministry of Health and Social Care to develop a national strategy for self-care, including consultation with pharmacists rather than general practitioners, who can then refer patients to cases where self-treatment is not appropriate.

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, President of the Royal College of GPs, supported the proposal, saying the earlier children learn these lessons, the more likely they are to take them into adulthood and pass them on to their own children.

She added: “This should create a positive cycle and hopefully a healthier country with a more sustainable healthcare system.”

A government spokesman said: ‘There are already a range of resources to support self-care – all of the community pharmacies in England providing NHS services offer self-care advice and medicines, and we’ve created teacher training modules on things like basic first aid.’

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