My View, David Crichton: Take responsibility for your own health

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We all want the NHS to be there to help us when we need it, but have you also thought how you can help the NHS?

Over the next few weeks, health services in Doncaster will face increased demand as temperatures start to drop and more people get winter related illnesses. But we can reduce the risk of getting ill by taking more responsibility for our health. Making simple lifestyle changes like brushing our teeth regularly, eating healthily and building exercise into our daily routine will ultimately help the NHS.

As the saying goes ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’. The sentiment is correct. By starting to look after ourselves better, we can cutour chances of becoming ill.

Around 80 per cent of care in the UK involves looking after ourselves. It’s going to become increasingly important as the NHS moves towards becoming a service that helps people avoid getting ill, rather than one that primarily gets involved when they are.

A few small steps could make a real difference, such as taking over the counter medicines when you have common symptoms such as sore throats and colds. Many people already do this, but there are those who don’t, choosing instead to book an appointment with their GP that could have been used by someone who is really ill.

Self-care good for us as giving people confidence and information to look after themselves when they can, and visit the GP when they need to, gives them greater control of their own health and encourages healthy lifestyles that help prevent them getting ill in the long-term.

In many cases it’s possible to manage minor ailments and cut the number of appointments in local surgeries, enabling GPs like me to focus on caring for higher risk patients, such as those with complex health problems and long-term conditions.

Making more cost-effective use of NHS resources allows money to be spent where it’s most needed and improve health outcomes. Taking increased personal responsibility for our health helps improve health, enabling us to manage long-term conditions better when they develop. This will support the long-term sustainability of the NHS.

Research suggests we all experience nearly four symptoms every fortnight, with the three commonest being feeling tired/run down, headaches and joint pain. Most are managed in the community without professional care.

Despite many people’s willingness to self-care, there are still over one million GP consultations a week for minor ailments. They cost the NHS £2 billion and take up, on average, an hour a day for every GP.

Think how much better that time could be spent on people with serious health problems.