/ Health

How much should we be taking care of our own health?

NHS Direct smartphone app

Do you use health websites, apps and products to look after yourself, or do believe that healthcare should be left to the professionals? With the NHS promoting Self Care Week, maybe it’s time to take responsibility.

It’s Self Care Week and the NHS Direct app has announced its millionth download.

But is the wealth of information, ever-increasing home-health products, and proliferation of health services that clamour for our attention a good thing or do they lead to confusion, misdiagnosis, worry and misguided optimism?

As I think back to some of the health products and services we’ve looked at in the past year, it strikes me that it can be very difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff.

These include self-test kits which led experts to conclude that you’d be better off keeping your money in your pocket and going to your GP, whole-body CT scans that can, in themselves, lead to health problems, and breast-scanning equipment with a less than adequate evidence base.

No-one would want people to be disempowered, and of course it is a great saving of precious NHS time and resource if people can be enabled to use their own common sense (and maybe an app) to diagnose and treat minor ailments, lose weight or stop smoking. But how do we know what products, services and advice we can trust?

Figures earlier this year suggested that as many as a quarter of people visiting A&E may be doing so unnecessarily, so is it any wonder that the department of health is promoting self-care week and reminding us that we can sometimes figure it out for ourselves?

My question is whether – with the white noise of products and services without a proper evidence-base – it’s always easy to know just how we should take the responsibility into our own hands?

Christine Jones says:
20 November 2011

I would never try to self diagnose myself I would always leave it up to my GP to decide my diagnosis or decide what treatment I should have – there are so many things you would or could self diagnose to have which I think is very dangerous. I would not like to think I was an expert in anything that takes seven years for a Doctor to train in so why are the NHS pushing us to this end. Labour Government did a great deal to improve the NHS both in time constraints and better treatment. The current government is now tearing all of their good apart to whose benefit not mine I fear. We live longer than ever and we need excellent health care which I feel the present coalition government cannot provide us with. We are all to suffer from the inadequacies of our current government not to allow our NHS to excel. How sad our we BRITISH CITIZENS TO SUFFER SUCH INJUSTICE

Gimcrack says:
21 November 2011

You usually know yourself if something’s serious and warrants a trip to the doctor or very serious and an emergency and requires a trip to A&E.

Those who don’t are the people that need educating about misusing the NHS.

There is a massive difference between self diagnosing and going to your doctor armed with information that could make both your lives easier.
I would never condone self prescribing anything that obviously needs a proper medical qualification to determine it’s benefits for you but if you can treat minor problems yourself you will save much needed NHS resources for those that really need them.
I have researched and treated numerous running related problems myself from finding a more supportive pair of trainers to stretching techniques that have solved problems that a GP would potentially have referred to physio.
My wife also has quite a serious condition that most doctors know little about and it has helped us massively being able to research online and go armed with enough information to have an informed discussion with the various doctors involved and also to be able to prompt them when they may not have considered an option.
Researching medical conditions has to be done with the same care as researching any other thing online. There is always going to be conflicting information so it is up to you to gather as much information as possible to allow you to make an informed decision and if there is no clear answer, seek out the help of a professional.