Intended for healthcare professionals


Promoting self care for minor illness

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: (Published 10 June 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c2913
  1. Irwin Nazareth, professor of primary care and population sciences ,
  2. Elizabeth Murray, reader in primary care
  1. 1Department of Primary Care and Population Health, University College London Medical School, London NW3 2PF
  1. i.nazareth{at}

    Is worthwhile but hard to achieve

    A recent survey commissioned by the Proprietary Association of Great Britain that investigated the attitudes and behaviours of consumers and professionals around self care of minor illnesses reported that little has changed over the past 20 years.1 More than half (52%)of people with a new minor ailment self treated and 22% did nothing. Within the sample of people who had received a prescription from a doctor the last time they had a minor ailment, 62% visited a doctor.

    Enhancing people’s ability to self care should be a priority for the NHS. Average annual general practitioner consultation rates per person in the United Kingdom have increased from 3.9 in 1995 to 5.3 in 2006, an ongoing increase of 70 million more general practitioner consultations each year in England.2 This is unsustainable, particularly in the current economic climate. Recent NHS policy has thus been aimed at promoting effective self care, both for minor ailments (see and for long term conditions.

    Promoting self care can be highly beneficial to the NHS and its users. Minor illnesses form 18% of …

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