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Looking out not in: educating the public

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The public knows little about health The public knows little about health

The rise in patient numbers seen by general practice is well documented and it is accepted that demand will rise further. Many column inches have been devoted to how the primary care workforce can fix this, with the GPs and primary care nurses' main aim being to recruit more staff into general practice.

A conversation I overheard between two seemingly well-informed ladies taking tea and cake at the local vintage plants' nursery made me wonder if the professions should start speaking outwards instead of to each other. They started talking about 'the doctors' and how frequently they attended. One, who was complaining that she was at the surgery once a fortnight, told her friend about this 'new scheme' pharmacists are running, and how they can help diagnose certain conditions, and how noone knew about it. The friend intoned her suprise. Then they moved on to not being able to get appointments and having to go to A&E with the kids. I had to stop myself from going over and shaking them. These were exactly the kind of women that one thinks would know how to use the NHS properly.

Isn't it about time that the NHS professions, and pharmacists, did more than put up a few posters in chemist shops to educate the public on a)what to do if they are poorly and b) when they need to consult a GP, nurse, health visitor, etc?

It's obviously a difficult area, which carries the faint suggestion that the public is clueless and that its their fault the NHS is in a mess. But its time to face the fact that much of the public knows little about health and has become reliant on professionals. Combine this with the recent cuts to public health budgets – now is the time to act. Nothing will change and the burden will not reduce if the public doesn't understand how to take care of its own health.

Rita Som, editor, Independent Nurse

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