What does ‘self-care’ mean and how can it help?

Self-care is about keeping fit and healthy, understanding when you can look after yourself, when a pharmacist can help, and when to get advice from your GP or another health professional. If you have a long-term condition, self-care is about understanding that condition and how to live with it.

Self-care is recommended when you have a minor condition which doesn’t normally need medical care (from a doctor or nurse) or any treatment in order to get better.

In practice this means a person decides that they can manage their illness without seeing a doctor.

This may be because they don’t like taking remedies or pills, or because they believe they will recover just as quickly if they stay at home and rest until their illness goes away of its own accord. Or they may pop out to buy medicines over the counter at a pharmacy. Either way, ‘self-care’ is something millions of us do every day – for positive and practical reasons.

But what if you feel you need some advice before you are able to self-care? For instance, if you’re not sure if your condition is minor, or one that goes away of its own accord, i.e. a virus, or if you just want advice on how to relieve the symptoms.

The good news is, your local pharmacist can help you.

Local pharmacies provide NHS services in the same way as GP practices – and pharmacists train for five years in the use of medicines before they qualify as health professionals. What’s more, it’s a walk-in service, open all day.

A pharmacist will assess symptoms and consider any long-term conditions, and the medicines that you’re taking, before providing a recommendation. They will either:

  • Support/advise you in your decision to self-care.
  • Sell you an ‘over the counter’ medicine (which doesn’t need a prescription or visit to a GP) that will help relieve symptoms and make you more comfortable.
  • Signpost you to the right medical care if you need it.

This help and advice is available at over 11,000 local pharmacies, without any appointment being needed, within your local area, and often into the evenings.

These are the common conditions that I suggest people can often manage for themselves:

  • Coughs and colds
  • Sprains and strains
  • Sore throat
  • Sinusitis
  • Earache
  • Constipation
  • Headache

If you’re unsure about which conditions you should be managing yourself, or how to manage them, see your local pharmacist.

For details of your nearest local pharmacy, and opening hours, go to the Find Pharmacy Services pages on the NHS Choices website.

Information from:

Unwell Child Resources

Please see the following resources for parents to make sure they get help when their child is very sick:


For all Newham families with children aged 0-5 years old, you can call the local health visitors between 9am-10pm Monday – Friday by calling 020 3373 9983 

This is a Nurse led phone support service to provide advice on managing common childhood illnesses and needs, such as:

  • coughs and colds
  • rashes
  • temperature
  • colic
  • crying baby
  • feeding support
  • sleeping issues


Adult Weight Management service for Newham residents, called ‘Live Well Newham’.


You are eligible for the FREE Live Well Newham Weight Management programme. There is no need to contact the surgery, for more info & to register go to or call 0333 577 3011

Eligibility criteria:

  • Aged 18+
  • Newham Resident
  • BMI of 25+ for White residents (or BMI of 23+ for adults of South Asian, Chinese and Black ethnicities)


Joint and Muscle Pain

Most problems can be treated without any specialised treatment.  GetUbetter gives you a personalised plan with step by step guidance.  Your symptoms will be screened and you will be alerted if they require medical attention.

Please click on the link for more information on how to manage your muscle and joint problems yourself.


Minor Eye Conditions Clinic

Optometrists are better equipped and have access to tests that are not available in a GP Practice to be able to mange your eye condition.  Click here for more information, and to see where you can access these services locally.


If you have back, neck or shoulder pain, a sports injury, movement problems due to a long term condition, need rehabilitation after a heart attack or support with breathing due to having COPD or cystic fibrosis, you can cut out the middle man (GP) and Self-refer to a physiotherapist to help you.



Talking Therapies:

Provide mental health support and well being.  They can provide support with many conditions including: Feeling low or depressed, anxious, stressed or panicky, problems with low self-esteem, problems dealing with a traumatic life event, obsessions and compulsions, minor eating disorders etc.  By self referring to these services it can speed up the support you need by cutting out waiting to see a GP first


Community Dental Services:

Dentists are specially trained in the help and care of your mouth.  Examples include: trauma, bleeding gums, minor cuts, bruises on the lips, lumps and bumps, ulcers, blisters, pain in your jaw etc. They have access to equipment and tests that GPs do not, in order to provide you with the best care and advice. Click here to find your nearest Dental Practice.

Vitamin D

 Please follow this link for Vitamin D advice

Date published: 6th March, 2020
Date last updated: 6th February, 2024