Health problems that need ongoing management over a number of years are called long-term conditions. Given their nature, people living with these long-term conditions are particularly likely to benefit from supported self-care, and most research regarding self-care has been done in the context of the management of long-term conditions.
National Voices have carried out an extensive review of the evidence regarding supported self-care for people with long-term conditions. They looked at the evidence for the effectiveness of different types of self-care, including different types of education programmes, the use of technology, the use of self-monitoring and the training of professionals to support self-care. From this evidence, they concluded that the best ways to support self-care are:
- To provide self-care education for people with specific conditions and to integrate this into routine healthcare;
- To provide general self-care education courses which are co-led by peers or lay people;
- To offer interactive on-line self-care courses;
- To offer telephone support and tele-health initiatives;
- To support self-monitoring of medication and symptoms.
National Voices found that these interventions helped to improve people’s knowledge about their condition, about how to self-care, and how to use health services most appropriately. They also found that self-care support could help to improve people’s coping skills, their confidence in managing their conditions, their feelings of being supported and their overall feelings of satisfaction.
Long-term conditions are often associated with anxiety and depression and this might explain why the evidence showed that improving self-care can also improve mental wellbeing. It was also demonstrated that supporting self-care can reduce the use of healthcare services and therefore the cost of these services.
The National Voices report also found that involving family members may help make self-care more sustainable and it would seem likely that this might be particularly relevant when considering the care of older people with frailty.
National Voices Systematic Review
Health Foundation Report
A rapid synthesis of the evidence on interventions supporting self-management for people with long-term conditions: PRISMS – Practical systematic Review of Self-Management Support for long-term conditions