Background. In England and the UK there has been a move to provide the consumer with
more choice in over the counter medicine. In recognition of the number of drugs now
available without prescription, new models and frameworks are being utilised with the aim to
educate the public about self-treatment. How health information is sought has also
undergone transformation with the advent of the internet, the adoption and utilisation of this
resource has had a significant impact on how the healthcare consumer seeks information.
Aims and Methods. The aim of this study was to investigate the provision of and access to
consumer health information in England, specifically with reference to over the counter
medicines to promote understanding of the consumers attitudes and opinions to this type of
medicine and their health information seeking behaviours. The findings of the study were
used to provide recommendations to the stakeholders involved; healthcare organisations,
healthcare professionals and the healthcare consumer. The research consisted of a survey
(n=324) and was analysed using quantitative and qualitative methods.
Results. The majority of respondents utilised over the counter medicine responsibly and with
few adverse events. The General Practitioner is the main source of information and online
advice/recommendations were amongst the themes identified that made a treatment episode
with over the counter medicines successful. Unsuccessful treatment episodes included those
with escalation of symptoms. Factors governing successful health information seeking were
problem solving through self diagnosis and expanding knowledge on an existing health
Conclusions. Over the counter medicines are a widely used commodity but respondents
continue to have a heavy reliance on the general practitioner for prescription medicines,
especially for minor ailments. Evidence exists that individuals utilise information seeking
behaviour for self treatment and the use of over the counter medicines. However, adoption
of self care models need to be increased through educating health care consumers to
maximise the potential benefits of these frameworks for the stakeholders.
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.