Do doctors have the right to choose if you get treated?

Friday 4th May 2012

  • If you suffering from obesity donít expect your doctor to treat you
  • Hereís why the real culprits arenít paying the price
  • Discover Rayís three stage approach to better national health

Leafing through The Observer on Sunday one of the headlines caught my eye.

ĎDoctors back denial of treatment for smokers and the obeseí ran the story, and it really made me stop and think.

A survey on found that more than half of the 1,096 doctors who responded thought anyone who refused to lose weight or stop smoking didnít deserve to be offered non-emergency interventions.

I do understand why the GPís might be struggling with an increasing workload from patients in these groups, but is it right that they should deny them care.

The more I pondered it the more I became uneasy with the whole idea.

It is too simple to say that these people have made decisions to smoke or overeat knowing that they were putting themselves at risk and therefore must live with the consequences.

What about when we get into a motor vehicle where our chances of being hurt are much higher than if we walk?

Or pull on our rugby shirts in the full and certain knowledge that a tough tackle could break a limb.

Knowing that we are putting ourselves at risk isnít a crime is it?

I continued to think about this as I read on.

ĎDr Tim Ringrose,'s chief executive, said the findings represented a significant shift in doctors' thinking brought on by the NHS in England's need to save £20bn by 2015. "This might appear to be only a slim majority of doctors in favour of limiting treatment to some patients who fail to look after themselves, but it represents a tectonic shift for a profession that has always sought to provide free healthcare from the cradle to the grave," he said.í now the meaning becomes clear. Itís all about money rather than a concern for our national health.

Hereís a thought though. Donít smokers and drinkers pay huge amounts of tax on their purchases?

How about we also levy a charge against the producers of unhealthy food as well, so that the likes of Coca-Cola, McDonalds and Pizza Hut hand over a chunk of their profits?

In this way there is cash flow to pay for the increased work we want the medical profession to do Ė everyone is happy!

Apart from the fact that this is just plain stupid.

The answer to better national health

As soon as we begin to apply this type of rationale to our health we fall into a very serious trap.

Medically we start to focus on treating symptoms rather than causes, and then our whole approach shifts away from where we should be.

When health is reduced to a balance sheet we look at short term implications of change, rather than a proper long term strategy that might cost us a bit more initially.

My approach to this is to make three basic changes;

1) We should invest is good teaching for our children. Donít give them leaflets and poor quality chats about health, we actually need to engage them in making changes.

They need help and direction in selecting and preparing simple nutritious meals from fresh ingredients, as well as appropriate snacks and food available from the school kitchen. Jamie Oliver isnít wrong in that.

Our children have to be the focus of this change, because itís not too late for them to avoid problems in later life.

2) Our approach to activity and exercise should encourage the use of freely available open space rather than corporate gyms.

Nature has blessed us with fields, parks and trees and we can use these to build our levels of activity rather than pack ourselves into sweaty, noisy buildings where we queue to use the latest technology which replicates a walk in the park.

Logically being out in the fresh air has to be better for us. OK it might rain a bit (surely not whilst we are experiencing such a formidable drought though eh!) and the wind may ruffle our hair but on the whole itís a refreshing experience.

By opening our eyes to whatís around us we begin to see more of each other, more of our local life and engage in society.

3) Stop allowing the big food companies and retailers to dominate our lives.

I have a real problem with the way the food business is conducting itself at the moment, however no-one in power seems to share my concerns.

Successive governments have cuddled up to the big boys, allowed them to sponsor health initiatives and turned a blind eye to their fleecing of the population. This includes the tobacco giants and alcohol companies too; you donít have to go back far to see when major televised sports were all under their logos.

Big business churn out poor quality food and promote it to the masses, whilst our leaders castigate the poor souls who have to buy it for their lack of sensible eating.

Itís not a tricky concept to get our heads around is it?

We all know someone that would have benefited from this three stage approach, and quite possibly our own lives have been affected by a lack of forethought when we were younger.

But that is no reason to write us off is it?

A final thought

If we allow our NHS to be dominated by finance rather than matters of health, we risk the kind of short term problems this news story demonstrates.

As the reforms begin to gather pace make sure you identify the hallmarks of money driving just change rather than better services Ė write to your MP to tell them you want a better health service rather than a cheaper one.

People SHOULD take more responsibility for their own health. It's up to us to look after ourselves and for doctors to look after us when things go wrong. But we need to make an effort in the first place.

On Sunday Iíll be telling you about the horrors of a trip to the local swimming pool, where the harsh reality of just what our poor diets are doing to us was revealed to me.

It wonít make pleasant reading, so prepare yourselves!

Yours, as always









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