Today’s columnist, GP Mary Wren: Looking after your health

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Coming up next week (November 16 to 22) is Self-Care Week. This is an annual national awareness week that focuses on how individuals, families and communities can look after themselves better.

There is an excellent online resource at www.selfcareforum.org

On the webiste they say: “Empowering people with the confidence and information to look after themselves when they can, and visit the GP when they need to, gives people greater control of their own health and encourages healthy behaviours that help prevent ill health in the long term.

“In many cases people can take care of their minor ailments, reducing the number of GP consultations and enabling GPs to focus on caring for higher-risk patients, such as those with comorbidities, the very young and elderly, managing long-term conditions and providing new services.”

Many people are willing to treat themselves, but often they lose confidence after a few days and worry that something more serious may be wrong.

At this point they will often consult a GP, when actually someone else such as a pharmacist may be able to provide what is needed.

It is estimated that 57 million GP appointments a year are for minor ailments, which adds up to around an hour per GP per day.

Now we are all aware of the stresses on our NHS at the moment and if we want it to survive long term we all have to take some responsibility for our own health.

It is also known that the more responsible we are, the more our wellbeing improves and the better we can manage chronic illnesses if they develop in the future.

So what can you do? The self-help forum online has some excellent resources on things like low back pain, constipation, headaches and fever in children.

It gives advice on how long minor illnesses ashould last. For example a common cold will last about 10 days and sinusitis about 17 days.

There are also sections on living with long-term conditions, a “Haynes” self-help manual for men and advice about what questions to ask when you have an appointment.

www.healthwatchsheffield.co.uk also has useful information about self-care, or look out for leaflets and posters in your GP’s surgery.

If we can take responsibility for what we can, then resources are freed up for those who need them.

We want to be sure that when we really need a doctor or A&E services, we will be able to access them.