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Self-Care Pharmacy project


The aim of the  Self-Care Pharmacy project was to improve the knowledge and understanding of self-care for minor ailments through a health literacy approach. It was funded by Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) and was part of a strategy from the Department of Health to put pharmacy first and support self-care for minor ailments.

The work commenced in January 2019 and was funded until March 2020, it had three objectives outlined below:

  1. Plan and a series of collaborative workshops in each HSCT area
  2. Facilitate and co-ordinate a design thinking project
  3. Design and deliver two community-based health literacy training programmes for leaders and individuals

Why use a health literacy approach? 

The International Self-Care Foundation has created the  “seven pillars of self-care” framework.  The first of these pillars is health literacy,  to improve knowledge and understanding of self-care we must also improve health literacy.   Improving health literacy will give people the knowledge, understanding and skills to obtain, process and use health information.  It will also enable them to access care from the most appropriate care provider, for example, a person deciding to go to their local pharmacist for advice about a sore throat, cold or flu like symptoms rather than their GP.  Health literacy is recognised a key determinant of health,  the project fits with CDHN’s vision as improving health literacy will lead to improved health outcomes and the reduction of health inequalities

Project deliverables

1. Collaborative workshops

We held nine collaborative workshops with 150 people across the five health and social care trust areas.   They began with a short presentation to provide background to the Project, an overview of key themes, self-care, minor ailments and health literacy and an explanation of the Design Thinking process.   This was followed with an insight gathering session.  

2. Design Thinking

Design Thinking is an approach to solving problems which allows everybody engaged in the process to be a creative thinker. It is most useful when tackling problems that are ill-defined or unknown – in this case, improving health literacy and increasing people’s capacity to self-care for minor ailments.

The collaborative workshops served as insight gathering in the community for the design thinking process.  We also held six insight gathering sessions with 40 health and social care staff including, Pharmacists, GPs, GP practice managers, receptionists and social workers, NI Ambulance service, HSCT staff, OOH and Emergency Department staff.  All the insight gathering sessions were very informative and provided us with a real insight into the issues around self-care, use of health services and health literacy.

The next stage in the design thinking process was a two-day Design Thinking workshop. This was independently facilitated by Rejig and hosted by WorkWest.  There were 18 participants with representation from health and social care, Government and the community and voluntary sector.  In the workshop, the evidence was reviewed, an ideation process commenced, and concepts were developed. Five concepts were developed in the workshop which, it was hoped, would be solutions to raise the capacity people to self-care for minor ailments.  The Covid-19 pandemic prevented the concepts being prototyped and tested. A virtual follow up workshop was held in September 2020 which explored what was still relevant from the work to date and the priority issues in terms of self-care and health literacy.   A draft report has been written with recommendations for the future, it is hoped this will be published in the coming months.  

3. Community Health Literacy training

CDHN developed two community health literacy training programmes as part of the project.  This was the first community-based health literacy training developed in Northern Ireland with the perspective of people in communities and those who support people in communities at the forefront. The training was developed using the primary evidence gathered though the design thinking element of the project, secondary desk research, consultation with Community Pharmacy Northern Ireland (CPNI) and CDHN’s own knowledge and expertise in developing and delivering training using a community development approach.

The first health literacy training programme was for community leaders.  It was delivered once in each of the Health and Social Care Trust areas (5 times).  It aimed to improve health literacy and understanding and skills for community leaders with a focus on increasing self-care for minor ailments.  The evaluation was very positive, the findings showed all participants knowledge and understanding of self-care, pharmacy services and the minor ailments scheme improved. 

The second training programme was for community groups.  Five sessions were planned for March and April 2020.  Due to the Covid-19 pandemic they were cancelled.  The purpose of the training is to give participants information on health literacy, pharmacy and self-care for minor ailments that they can then cascade to others, this could be informally in conversation or as part of an existing programme or session.   

For more information about any aspect of the Self-Care Pharmacy project contact:

Helen McNamee
T: 028 3026 4606