What is self-management support and why is it important?

Every day, people with long-term health conditions, their family members and carers will make decisions, take actions and manage a broad range of factors that contribute to their health. Self-management support acknowledges this and supports people to develop the knowledge, confidence and skills they need to make the optimal decisions and actions.

Most of the time, people manage their own health and wellbeing, rather than health professionals or services taking on this role. Health policy, and increasing evidence of positive outcomes, highlight the benefit of supporting people to manage their own health as effectively as possible. These benefits can be felt by people with long-term health conditions, health professionals, providers (both within and beyond the NHS) and commissioners.

Together with good quality clinical care, self-management support ensures that people receive the full range of support they need to manage the physical, emotional and social impact of their long-term health conditions at different stages and ages during their lives.

Self-management support is an important component of person-centred care, which has four principles.

  1. Affording people dignity, compassion and respect.
  2. Offering coordinated care, support or treatment.
  3. Offering personalised care, support or treatment.
  4. Supporting people to recognise and develop their own strengths and abilities to enable them to live an independent and fulfilling life.

Figure 1: The four principles of person-centred care

For people living with long-term health conditions, self-management support means:

  • being active partners in determining outcomes that are important to them and how to achieve them, working in collaboration with health care professionals
  • being supported to build knowledge, skills, confidence and resilience to manage the impact of their symptoms and limitations so they can live a full and meaningful life
  • being enabled to access the support they need within and beyond health services to better manage their own health and wellbeing on an ongoing basis.

Effective self-management support requires changes across the whole system, from how services are regulated, planned, commissioned and provided, to how health professionals and people with long-term health conditions work together, and how people are supported in between appointments. It also requires these groups to work in partnership, with a common understanding of and commitment to self-management support.

Different technologies can support change, such as online consultations and self-monitoring, and are can also help people to self-manage and deliver services to support them.

Self-management support is important for the following reasons:

  • People with long-term health conditions and their carers can enjoy a better quality of life, self-confidence and achieve the outcomes that are important to them.
  • People with long-term health conditions experience better clinical outcomes.
  • Professionals working in and beyond the NHS can have more meaningful conversations with people with long-term health conditions and greater impact from, and satisfaction with, their practice.
  • Services can be delivered in a more ‘joined-up’ and cost effective way.
  • Nationally, supporting self-management is part of implementing health and social care policies across the UK and the transformational change needed within our health care services.

Further reading

Self-management support – The Health Foundation person-centred care resource centre

A collection of resources on all aspects of self-management support http://personcentredcare.health.org.uk/person-centred-care/self-management-support

The key policy documents for England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales that promote self-management support

The Five Year Forward View. NHS England www.england.nhs.uk/ourwork/futurenhs/

Gaun Yersel. Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland www.alliance-scotland.org.uk/resources/library/search/gaun+Yersel/

Living with Long Term Conditions: a policy framework. Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Northern Ireland www.dhsspsni.gov.uk/index/long-term-condition.html

Long Term Conditions: changing for the better. NHS Wales www.wales.nhs.uk/sitesplus/863/opendoc/219791

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