The Doctors’ Association UK welcomes statements made ahead of the Secretary of State’s speech encouraging patients to adopt healthier lifestyles. Doctors will all agree that prevention is indeed better than cure, and Mr Hancock is right to highlight the advice long given by GPs to patients, to stop smoking, limit alcohol, and maintain a balanced diet.
However, we are concerned that such laudable statements do not tally with last week’s budget, suggesting yet more cuts to public health funding that covers prevention initiatives run by Public Health England. We understand Mr Hancock is not expected to announce any measures to aid health prevention, and therefore we must question how this will be funded.
In addition doctors are concerned that asking people to take more responsibility for their own health pushes the blame for diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and and cancer onto patients, who do not choose to develop these illnesses.
Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden, Chair of DAUK, said “Mr Hancock’s aims are admirable, and doctors would be the first to support the old adage of ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’. You cannot prescribe any medication to replace a healthy lifestyle, and doctors have long been giving patients advice on how to keep well such as stopping smoking and eating healthily. However, we must recognise that such choices are complex, and many of these lifestyle factors are associated with poverty.”
Dr Alan Woodall, GP & Public Health lead for DAUK, said: “Personal responsibility is not the main driver for improvement in health. Without funding and policy change to reduce the obesogenic environment, further reduce smoking and drug use, improve social cohesion and recognise wider political policy impacts on health, this strategy unlikely to succeed.”