Is this a familiar scenario for you?
- You struggle to get an appointment with your doctor
- you sit in the waiting room surrounded by ill people
- you have a few precious minutes with your doctor
- the doctor’s attitude seems to be “I need to treat the symptoms that this person is presenting”
- after an initial cursory chat the doctor reaches for prescription pad and writes a prescription
- you leave the Dr’s surgery clutching your prescription and head for the chemist to have it fulfilled
The above scenario is very much what happens when I visit my doctor, and I’m sure it is a common scenario that resonates with many people.
But does it have to be like this?
Is there an alternative approach that could be taken as to how doctors interact with patients and the advice and support that is given?
I’ve been asking my Twitter followers today if they have a doctor who thinks about lifestyle and nutritional changes before reaching for the prescription pad.
Most of the responses that I got were consistent with the scenario that I laid out above. Almost nobody in the UK said that the doctor even considers lifestyle or nutritional changes as part of the consultation process. Interestingly from the USA the response I got were different. Some folks said that due to the cost of healthcare in the US that they are forced to or choose to consider what they can do to support or improve their health before paying to see a physician.
So what would precipitate change, here in the UK?
As we all know, the National Health Service (NHS) is one of the key expense areas to any British government of modern times. It’s something that as a nation we are and should be (in my opinion) proud of and that we are keen to retain. The NHS is part of the British DNA, however I believe that it faces a huge challenge in that it cannot simply continue digging ever deeper into the country’s pockets for more and more money to support the many and varied services that it provides.
The issue of funding is going to become ever more important. I envisage that a serious funding crisis will be the catalyst for change in the way that doctors deal with their patients and how patients will have to begin to take responsibility for their own health and well-being. In an age where the National Health Service can no longer provide a “a pill for every ill” that is paid for or highly subsidised by the government, both doctors and patients will see a paradigm shift in the way that they interact with one another.
I strongly believe that it will only be a crisis of funding that will make our health service sit up and take notice that there are alternatives to simply prescribing many of the products of pharmaceutical companies to address the many and varied symptoms and the underlying causes of some of the chronic diseases that we see so frequently in British society. When there is no money left in the kitty to provide these medications and procedures then we will have no option but to consider other courses of action. My sincere hope is that before we get to this point, the NHS and doctors will wake up and realise that discussing lifestyle changes and supporting their patients in taking responsibility for their own health through nutrition is one way in which the health service can dramatically not only save money but increase the health of the nation.
I for one want to see the day when I go to my doctor and find that the surgery is no longer a place where people are waiting to receive a prescription, but rather a centre of wellness, where good practice nutrition and health are being promoted rather than disease care and a system that rewards the shareholders of the big pharmaceutical companies. Of course I recognise that some diseases and ailments will still require medication, however I believe that a large proportion of the NHS’s budget could be saved through a radical change in which GP services are re-focused.
I look forward to the day when my doctor’s surgery will provide health and wellbeing classes, advice on nutrition, even discounted fresh food that will help patients change their health destiny and address their health concerns in a holistic way.