Most minor health problems can be managed by people with medicines that they purchase. However minor ailments remain the subject of many NHS consultations with doctors and generate substantial numbers of prescriptions.
To investigate the attitudes and behaviours of consumers and healthcare professionals to discover what motivates and inhibits self care of common minor health problems.
On-line surveys were conducted with 1317 consumers, 131 GPs, 130 Nurses and 159 Pharmacists from England and Wales. In addition 401 patients attending pharmacies to collect prescriptions self-completed a questionnaire.
Many consumers with a new minor ailment self treat (52%), or do nothing (22%). However behaviour is repetitive, with 62% choosing to visit a GP or nurse if a prescription was issued on the last suffering occasion. Conversely, past experience with self care appears to build confidence with 84% choosing this for new episodes. Pharmacists are willing to offer advice, but spend relatively little time doing so, with few consumers appearing to consult them for minor conditions. GPs and consumers disagree about the latter’s confidence and willingness to self care and patients’ experiences do not support GPs’ claims to recommend self care often.
Consumer and GP behaviour in relation to managing minor ailments appears to have changed little over the last 20 years. A recommendation for self care must become what consumers expect to hear when they consult their GP for minor illness. Similarly doctors and nurses in general practice need ‘permission’ to meet that expectation and not prescribe for minor health problems.
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