Published: 31/01/2002, Volume II2, No. 5790 Page 5

The NHS lacks a comprehensive strategy supporting self-care at local and national levels, according to junior health minister Hazel Blears.

Speaking at the self-care support strategy conference, she told delegates that the government was already spending£300m on initiatives designed to help patients: 'This is a sizeable sum, though less than 1 per cent of the total NHS spend. 'I recognise that we still have a long way to go before the NHS plan vision becomes a complete reality. We need a practical strategy for supporting self-care at local and national levels.'

She said research showed that self-care could cut GP visits and hospitalisation by about about half, but that for the Department of Health it was 'not about saving money' but about using resources efficently. Self-care within the NHS, she said, was already being implemented through the national service frameworks, NHS Direct, walk-in centres and the expert patients programme - a£2m pilot project launched last year to help those suffering chronic conditions.