Promoting self-care in GP surgeries – Volunteers’

Are you interested in becoming a Self-care and Prevention volunteer? 

Your Voice in Health and Social Care (YVHSC) are looking for volunteers who will speak with patients about self-care and prevention in GP surgeries. You will have the opportunity to empower patients to look after themselves by providing information on self-care and prevention, health initiatives and signposting to social activities/exercise classes/organisations. 

You will gain first-hand experience of understanding how health and social care services are run in the London Borough of Hounslow. If you are looking to work in the health sector, this will be the perfect opportunity to gain an insight into patient views and how services work together. If you would like to do something in your spare time, this will be a great opportunity for you to meet new people and other volunteers.

For more information, please call us on 020 3603 2438 or click here to view the volunteer role.

Developing dedicated volunteer services to better integrate self-care and empower people to have greater control over their own health and encourage behaviours that will prevent ill-health or self-manage existing health conditions.

“I joined YVHSC on Sept 5th 2017 and since then I’ve been a GP Self Care and Prevention volunteer. The main purpose of being a Self Care and Prevention volunteer is to encourage the people to be attune to an etiquette that encourages self management of existing non-serious health condition as well as how and where to do so safely. This helps to reduce unwanted GP visits and trips to A&E or Urgent Care Centre.

Self Care and Prevention starts with an awareness of how one can manage their well-being themselves, hence this intrigued me to volunteer as I always believe prevention is better than cure. My role includes engaging with patients or groups of people from various ethnic backgrounds and raising awareness regarding different healthcare services that are available in borough and signposting them to health, social care and other services that will support the improved wellbeing of the individual. The most rewarding part of the role would be creating awareness about services that people were not aware of its availability. For instance Hounslow IAPT services gathers more attention from people once they get to know about the service.

Volunteering  helps me to learn new skills like engaging with different people, assimilate and disseminate information and learn to communicate even with language barriers. I encourage people to take up volunteering as it gives an opportunity, especially for people from emerging communities to help and create awareness on health, social care and other services and contribute back to their own community”.

Cynthia, Volunteer 



Despite people’s willingness to initially self-treat, there are still 57 million GP consultations a year for minor ailments at a total cost to the NHS of £2 billion, which takes up, on average, an hour a day for every GP.

Research shows that people often abandon self-care earlier than they need to, typically seeking the advice of a doctor within a period of 4-7 days. The main reasons for this are:

  • Lack of confidence in understanding the normal progress of symptoms (e.g. a cold can last up to 14 days)
  • The perceived severity and duration of symptoms
  • A prescription to ‘cure’ the illness, even though the same medicine may be available over-the-counter

Self-care means looking after yourself in a healthy way; whether it’s brushing your teeth, taking medicine when you have a cold, or doing some exercise.

If you have a long-term condition, there are extra things to consider, such as making changes to diet, different types of exercise or different types of medication required.

Self-care also means staying active by doing things that are important, such as gardening, seeing friends and family, going on holiday, or continuing to work, if possible. It involves looking at what you can do and want to do, rather than what you can’t do.

Empowering people with the confidence and information to look after themselves when they can, and visit the GP when they need to, gives people greater control of their own health and encourages healthy behaviours that help prevent ill health in the long-term. In many cases people can take care of their minor ailments, reducing the number of GP consultations and enabling GPs to focus on caring for higher risk patients, such as those with comorbidities, the very young and elderly, managing long-term conditions and providing new services.

More cost-effective use of stretched NHS resources allows money to be spent where it’s most needed and improve health outcomes. Furthermore, increased personal responsibility around healthcare helps improve people’s health and wellbeing and better manage long-term conditions when they do develop. This will ultimately ensure the long-term sustainability of the NHS.

Around 80% of all care in the UK is self-care. The majority of people feel comfortable managing everyday minor ailments like coughs and colds themselves; particularly when they feel confident in recognising the symptoms and have successfully treated using an over-the-counter (OTC) medicine before.

On average, people in the UK experience nearly four symptoms every fortnight, the three commonest being feeling tired/run down, headaches and joint pain and most of these are managed in the community without people seeking professional healthcare.

Further Information:

YVHSC recruits volunteers  that are representative of the areas demographic and liaises with the lead GP and practice manager for each surgery to ensure a successful integration of the voluntary service and aim to establish core hours with each surgery to ensure that volunteers are present during these times to maximise the services impact. This can be agreed as an overall service target across all GP surgeries within the programme.

Volunteers will ensure patients awareness of self-care includes:

  • Avoiding becoming ill, treating common illnesses at home and seeking help when patients need it.
  • Managing any conditions in a way that puts the patient in control and improves quality of life.
  • Self-care kits
  • Interactive health tools
  • Understanding the self-care booklet
  • Directing patients to information kiosks
  • Appropriate access

The programme aims to develop an approach:

  • To deliver a facilitative and informed service across GP services that provide volunteers trained to support better self-care, access and understanding and facilitate access to digital information hubs.
  • To develop an access point within GP surgeries that support self-care and reduces inequality in health and social care.
  • To raise awareness throughout the Hounslow community of GP services as an information hub enabling better access and understanding of health and social care services.


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