Minor health conditions and self care

Minor health conditions are conditions that you can often treat yourself, with no need to see a doctor or nurse, by resting at home and sometimes using over the counter medicines from your local pharmacist. We call this self care.   

Minor health conditions include:

Visit the Health A-Z at nhs.uk for more advice on specific conditions. Read more about minor health conditions, as well as self care in south west London.

Alternatively, visit the Self Care Forum.

Over the counter medicines

Over the counter medicines are best for minor health conditions. These can include medicines for hay fever, sunscreens, creams for insect stings and bites, as well pain relief medicines and cough and cold remedies. These can be bought from pharmacies and local shops without a prescription. They’re also often cheaper this way. You can get them without an appointment or seeing a doctor.

In 2017 we stopped supporting the routine prescription of health supplements and medications that can be bought over the counter for minor conditions, self-limiting and short-term illnesses. 

Read the NHS England leaflet about the changes.

Read the CCG position statement and exemptions.

Your pharmacist can give you advice about how to manage minor health conditions and what medications to take to treat them. Most pharmacists have a private consultation area where you can have a confidential discussion.

If your health condition is more serious and needs the attention of another healthcare professional, such as your GP, the pharmacist can advise you about this.

Read more about pharmacy services in south west London

How self care helps

  • One in every five GP visits and many visits to A&E are for minor health conditions which could be treated with rest and advice from a pharmacist. 
  • Self care helps to free up some of your GP or nurse’s time, making it easier to get an appointment when you have a more serious or complex condition.
  • Every time you see a GP it costs the NHS £36 on average, while a visit to A&E can cost £130. 
  • Self care helps ease the pressure on NHS services by managing most minor health conditions at home or with support from your community pharmacist.
  • Reducing the amount spent by your local NHS on medicines that are available for patients to buy over the counter and avoiding unnecessary GP appointments means that resources can be used to help those with more complex conditions.
  • Self care is also about looking after yourself when you are well. This could be anything from brushing your teeth, cutting back on drinking alcohol, stopping smoking or doing some exercise . You can read more about healthy lifestyles at nhs.uk

Medicine cabinet

We encourage you to buy a range of over the counter medicines that are suitable for you and your family, and to keep them in stock in case of illness, that way they are quickly available when you need them. Your local pharmacist can advise which ones are most appropriate for you and your family.

Check your medicine cabinet, or create one, and make sure you have the following basics to hand for when you need them:

  • Painkillers such as paracetamol and ibuprofen
  • Sore throat, coughs, colds and flu medications
  • Heartburn and indigestion remedies
  • Anti-diarrhoea and constipation medication
  • Antihistamines (for a mild allergy)
  • Rehydration salts 
  • Pile (haemorrhoid) treatment 
  • Sunscreen
  • First aid kit, including plasters, bandages, a thermometer and antiseptic cream

Please help the NHS to use resources in the best way.

Read more about medicines