The assumption that the larger the elderly population is, equals the more sick people, while currently true, assumes that you have to be sick to be old. No political party mentions the possibility of reducing the number of sick people by actually preventing or reversing illness.
The expensive diseases are obesity, diabetes, dementia, cancer, heart disease and mental illness. All of these are preventable and most are reversible.
In my opinion the NHS’s measure of success should be the health of the nation. That is its ‘profit’. This is going down while the costs go up. It is, in this respect, Britain’s fast growing failing business. Some say it just needs to be more efficient. The definition of efficiency is doing the thing right, but it also needs to be more effective, that is doing the right thing. That clearly isn’t happening. The annual drug bill keeps going up at a cost of about £15 billion a year. That is £234 per person per year spent on drugs.
Meanwhile little is being down to tackle the causes of disease. At long last, sugar is in the firing line but, unlike many states in the US, we are not yet taxing high sugar foods and drinks. There is no clear political campaign to drive down sugar consumption.
David Cameron keeps talking about leading the world in dementia research and recently announced a further £100 million fund for drug research. From 2006 to 2014 the total spend on any prevention research by UK health councils is a measly £156,000 – 0.1% of research funding. Unlike other countries who ring-fence money for prevention research, the UK government has refused to do so. We are so far behind the US and Scandinavian countries in prevention research.
The UK’s cancer survival statistics are among the worst in Europe. People diagnosed with cancer are still not being educated as to the many things they can do to reduce risk of recurrence. Chemo drugs make so little difference to overall survival. Diet makes the biggest difference.
A recent Lancet paper concluded that “Nutritional medicine should now be considered as a mainstream element of psychiatric practice” yet vulnerable young people continue to be prescribed addictive drugs. We have somewhere between 1 and 2 million people in the UK dependent on prescribed medication. When will psychiatry wake up?
I think that as long as our health care service is mainly working simply to keep people alive using expensive drugs, rather than addressing the true underlying causes of disease, the NHS is destined to cost more and more, especially with a skew towards an ever-ageing population.
The establishment of Public Health England is a step in the right direction but is it going to really tackle health education and disease prevention based on the tremendous scientific advances that exist, especially in the field of nutritional medicine? What do you think?
One thing I have noticed, from lecturing all over the world is that, wherever the system charges something for people to see their GP, for example Ireland, there is a much greater willingness for people to learn about how to prevent and reverse their own diseases. A recent poll reported that 48% of people now believe that, within 10 years, NHS services will not be free.
On the issue of the NHS I have no idea who to vote for because none of the political parties are even beginning to address the real issues for our ever-growing health care bill.
I’m interested in opening a discussion on these issues. What do you think about the NHS and how it is spends its money? What do you think its focus should be? What has been your experience? What should the political parties be focusing on with regards to the NHS?