Welcome to NH21 Weekly, a regular feature discussing current health news from around the world.
We start in Old Blighty, where a recent financial audit shows that Britain’s NHS is struggling under the weight of a record £2.45billion deficit.
Battling to cope with a surge in demand for care, the Treasury is considering a major budget squeeze, leaving politicians and the general public concerned about the sustainability of this 68-year established national treasure.
Much of the annual budget is utilized by hospitals and emergency wards to treat urgent health problems; yet according to Richard Murray of The King’s Fund (an independent charity working to improve health and care in England);
“The challenge facing the NHS is not limited to hospitals. General practice is also in crisis as they try to keep up with demand.” (1)
Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers (which represents hospital trusts) adds;
“We have to rapidly regain control of NHS finances otherwise we risk lengthening waiting times for patients, limiting their access to services, and other reductions in the quality of patient care.” (2)
A grave situation indeed; compounded in no small part by the actions of millions of patients who put unnecessary strain on the system by seeking medical help for minor complaints such as colds, insect bites and even dandruff!
According to a report by the Local Government Association (a cross-party organisation that works on behalf of local councils);
“There are 57m GP consultations every year for minor complaints, including 5.2m for blocked noses, 40,000 for dandruff and 20,000 for travel sickness.” (3)
Councillor Izzi Seccombe (chairman of the LGA’s community wellbeing board) adds;
“GPs and A&E departments are already overstretched. However, many appointments are unnecessary and for minor conditions that a person could treat or manage themselves. We need a new culture of care where people stop and think before calling the doctor.” (4)
COMPLEMENTARY and NATURAL HEALTHCARE
Statistics from the NHS Confederation (a membership body that brings together organisations that plan, commission and provide NHS services) reveal that;
- There are an estimated 3million people with diabetes in England.
- The proportion of men classified as obese increased from 13.2 per cent in 1993 to 24.3 per cent in 2014; and from 16.4 per cent to 26.8 per cent for women over the same timescale.
- The proportion of boys aged 2-10 classified as obese has increased from 10 per cent in 1995 to 16.8 per cent in 2014; and from 11 per cent in 1995 to 14.1 per cent for girls over the same timescale. (5)
Given these sobering figures there are compelling arguments for individuals to evaluate their own dietary intake and lifestyle practices; more so those responsible for the care of minors. Environment and nutrition are to some extent under voluntary control; by modifying the diet and improving lifestyle we can greatly reduce the incidence of metabolic disorders such as obesity and type-2 diabetes.
Education is undoubtedly a factor, but so too is personal accountability. As Seccombe explains;
“Better self-management could make a huge difference to a person’s physical and mental wellbeing. Instead, the lack of knowledge among the general population about how they can do this is placing a huge burden on surgeries and hospitals.” (6)
There will always exist the need for clinical medical expertise to combat the myriad afflictions a person might face in their lifetime. Yet society’s collective reliance on medicine and technology is highly contentious and the topic of much debate.
If national health programmes are to be implemented successfully they need support of the medical profession, and of individuals, who must accept greater responsibility for their own wellbeing by exercising the self-discipline required to modify daily habits and sedentary living.
Complementary and natural healthcare protocols encourage positive health by removing the obstacles to that cause. For many people this is a bitter pill to swallow as it inherently implies that health (or lack thereof) is within the power of the individual to control.
Clearly this is not always the case. Genetics and heredity undoubtedly cause many people to suffer the burden of disease through no fault of their own. And even if a person does wish to commit to lifestyle changes, there are factors they cannot affect within society at large. It is normal that we get sick at times.
Yet it is worth considering that chronic diseases are often the result of a gradual, sustained degeneration of cellular health; they do not spontaneously fly in through the window and strike us down in the night.
Modern medicine should not give up what it does well; that is, treat disease. It must however recognize that by concentrating some energy on programmes that help people to stay healthy, it can better use its resources for crisis management and the treatment of disease for those who need it.
Effective healthcare is best delivered with a multi-disciplinary approach. Embracing a complementary, preventative-focused programme can play a significant role in helping people with long-term conditions such as diabetes or obesity to manage their illness; reducing the need to seek professional medical help and ensuring that institutions such as the NHS are equipped to serve the public for a further 68-years and more.