THE state of the NHS means that every political party is compelled – not even obliged – to promise to make available extra money at this election to fund services as hospital waiting lists lengthen.
Yet, while it is up to each party to justify the proportion of taxpayers’ money that they intend to devote to healthcare, they omit one critical point as doctors struggle to meet the needs of their patients.
Extra funding will not be a cure-all if it is not matched by sustained improvements in public health that encourage, even cajole, people into taking greater personal responsibility for their wellbeing. This need is made even more apparent by a new report, from Leeds-based NHS Digital, which reveals how millions of people in England are overweight, drink too much alcohol, eat badly or fail to do enough exercise.
As charities call on the Government to provide extra support for those individuals deemed to be at risk of future health problems, like diabetes, as a result of obesity, alcohol and poor diets, this should not preclude GPs – and others – from prescribing regular exercise and, in many cases, common sense.
It has already been proven that walking, or even cycling, can make a marked difference to the health of the clinically obese – the challenge is making sure that there are sufficient GPs, and others, to offer the necessary encouragement and make sure that exercise regimes, issued for the very best of reasons, are strictly adhered. As such, public health reform is just as important as social care provision if the NHS is to become more sustainable and avoid lurching from one cash crisis to another in the years to come.