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Friday, 02 September 2016

Engage: How can we all reap the benefits of self care?

Written by Dr Pete Smith

“We are at the tipping point of a cultural change towards self-care as a way of life and work”, says Dr Pete Smith of the Self Care Forum, “but for change to happen we must work collaboratively with each other and with people and patients.”

To share ways in which you can encourage this cultural shift in your organisation, the Self Care Forum is inviting professionals working in health, local government and public health to attend this year’s Annual Self Care Conference on 26 September in London.

Amongst the speakers, delegates will hear from Public Health England’s Chief Executive Duncan Selbie. Duncan will share details of the national support for self-care, including how STP’s (sustainability and transformation plans) can incorporate self-care to help deliver better health, better patient care and improved NHS efficiency.

Delegates will also receive insights from self-care model leads from around the country who have successfully implemented programmes and strategies to help empower and engage people. They will also explain how this has helped them to achieve their organisational goals. This will include a large, integrated programme across health and wellbeing board areas.

The conference theme is ‘understanding self-care’, with a health literacy focus. Sixty per cent of working age adults in England find health information too complex to digest and expert patient programmes have had to be introduced to give adults a basic understanding of how to interface with health services.

Without good levels of health literacy people are unable to process and understand simple health information and make appropriate decisions. As a consequence, people are disempowered when it comes to looking after their health and accessing health services in a timely and appropriate way.

This disempowerment is accelerating the problem of demand in the health service. Sir Derek Wanless addressed the 2002 Self Care Conference, presenting his ‘fully engaged’ vision for a sustainable NHS. The Self Care Forum has continued to promote that vision.

The Five Year Forward View rekindled the NHS’s commitment to that engaged view and I am pleased to be a board member on NHS England’s Self Care Programme. We look forward to hearing from the Programme’s lead and Director of Patient and Public Participation and Insight, Anu Singh, at the Self Care Conference. We hope Anu will share details of this national programme and NHS England’s support for self-care with delegates.

The Self Care Forum` believes that collaboration is crucial in creating a cultural shift, and our conference will showcase inspiring visionaries who will present details of how their joint working in the local community has made a difference to the local health economy and to people’s health.

Essential to the cultural shift needed is the interaction we have as professionals and organisations with the public, clients and patients. Our forum is clear that self-care is not ‘no care’. It’s about supportive collaborative conversations with clear and consistent messages. These conversations are vital to engage people in their health, helping them towards better wellbeing for themselves and their loved ones.

A special people’s panel session with young people will help delegates engage with patients and the public about their health wants and needs and to understand what it takes to allow them to feel empowered and informed in their health decisions.

Ultimately, the aim for this year’s conference is to debate, engage, inspire and present practical solutions to help people gain a better understanding of what self-care means for a healthier life. We hope this will move us closer to that cultural shift where self-care becomes everyone’s lifelong habit.

About the Author

Dr Pete Smith is a GP and co-Chair of the Self Care Forum. For more details about the work of the Self Care Forum go to or contact

Pete was writing on the Department of Health, Social Care blog which you can follow here: