In the U.K. we are fortunate to have free access to healthcare, I’m grateful that my loved ones and I have somewhere to go if we get sick or injured and it baffles me that some take it for granted and some go as far to abuse it.
The very things that make the NHS what it is, free and accessible to everyone, seems to be resulting a population who feel entitled and take less and less responsibility for their own health. When the NHS was founded, it was done so for a smaller population with less complicated health issues. The NHS simply wasn’t designed to meet the demands of a chronically sick nation. For the NHS to survive and so that future generations get to benefit from the service, I believe we need to change the way we view and treat our health. We need to focus on prevention, on staying as healthy and independent as we can, for as long as possible.
The NHS already invests so much in helping those who are in ill health, it is estimated that the average adult in the UK will spend the last 17 years of their life in poor health. The government has pledged to spend more money on services that promote wellbeing and tackle the root causes of poor health. This is a step in the right direction but this alone won’t be enough. We need to take responsibility of our health, of our family’s health, we must own our decisions and do our bit.
There are diseases or conditions that cannot be prevented – these are usually present at birth or are inherited through faulty genetics. However, these are rare and do not account for the majority of NHS spending. The biggest killers and biggest costs to the NHS are all chronic, preventable diseases which arise from lifestyle choices. If there was less chronic, preventable disease, more money could be spent on services and resources needed by people who have no control over their illness, who were just dealt a bad hand.
I was recently sent the picture above and I love the message it sends. I would argue that it is the individual’s responsibility to maintain their own good health. Too many of us make choices every day that harm our health. We know that if we eat too much, smoke cigarettes, drink excessive amounts of alcohol, exercise too little, don’t prioritise getting enough sleep and fail to manage stress we are increasing our risk of developing a host of chronic diseases. I question whether these choices would be as readily accepted and adopted if the NHS wasn’t there to pick up the pieces.
Ultimately, our health impacts us more than anyone else. We have one body, take care of it, don’t wait until you’re already sick, act now and save yourself.