Prevention more cost-effective than cure for healthy NHS

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From: Philip Smith, New Walk, Beverley.

ALMOST every day in the media there is some comment about the NHS and why we need to keep throwing more money at it. Each political party tries to outdo the others in their promises.

Despite all of the money spent, those who experience the NHS first-hand know that the service provided is extremely variable and the vast quantities of our cash are wasted. Sally Norton’s article (The Yorkshire Post, November 14) about the junk food sold and served up in the NHS is barely the tip of the iceberg.

The situation is far more serious than this. The way the NHS is currently set up is designed to fail for three reasons.

Firstly – patients have no accountability for their health. No matter how much some people abuse their bodies, the rest of us pick up the tab every time. It doesn’t matter how much someone smokes, drinks alcohol, eats red meat, is obese, eats a diabetes-prone diet, stuffs themselves with junk food – they know they will get free health care. So there is no incentive to have a healthy lifestyle.

Secondly almost the whole emphasis of the NHS is on cure. Many doctors have had no training other than to tell smokers to stop, alcoholics to get treatment and fat people to lose weight. There is now plenty of evidence that if you want to be healthy, then severely curtail intake of all meat, fish, dairy products and refined sugar and increase your intake of vegetables, fruit, cereal and nuts. If you want to risk dying early and painfully from cancer, heart disease and the complications of diabetes, then eat all the meat, fish, dairy products and refined sugar you want. In other words if you want to be healthy, ignore 90 per cent of what’s sold in supermarkets.

Of course the promoters of junk food tell us that their product is all well and good in a ‘balanced’ diet. But a ‘balanced’ diet isn’t balanced at all! And the meat, fish, dairy and sugar industries do not want us to know how dangerous their products are, nor how much they receive in government subsidies.They are as much in denial as the tobacco companies were prior to the 1980s.

Doctors should be incentivised to keep their patients healthy through prevention. This means being trained at least as much in prevention as in cure. It means being aware of the addictive nature of sugar, salt and fat. It means telling people what to do to be healthy and charging them when they don’t do these things. Otherwise the NHS will go on to further bankrupt the country and millions will continue to die of preventable diseases prematurely.