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Public must own responsibility for their health

GP consultations should not always begin with “What can I do for you?” says minister

Louise Prime

Friday, 06 June 2014

It is the government’s job to create the right conditions for people to live full and healthy lives, but individuals’ obligation to take custodianship of their own health, according to Mark Drakeford. The Health Minister in the Welsh Government believes that people must stop handing over responsibility for their own health to the NHS, to manage demand on the system and safeguard its future.

Mark Drakeford will this afternoon tell delegates at the NHS Confederation’s annual conference in Liverpool that for the NHS to thrive during and beyond times of austerity, a new bargain must be struck with the people of Wales. He will say: “Each of us has a duty to look after ourselves – we must all become custodians of our own health, instead of handing ownership of our health to the nearest professional as we have traditionally done.”

He is keen to point out that although the NHS remains free at the point of use – true to the intention of Aneurin Bevan – this does not make it free of obligation. He will say: “The NHS is there to help us in our time of need but with that comes a responsibility to use its resources wisely …

“At an individual level, the health professional and patient must work together, rather than the patient putting their health problem in the hand of the nurse, GP or consultant. The conversation we have with patients cannot always open with the question ‘What can I do for you?’ as though the encounter is one in which the health service takes onto its own shoulders the whole of the responsibility for that encounter.”

The Health Minister believes that on a population level, this means the Welsh Government should create an environment in which healthier decisions are easier for people to make, through its proposed measures outlined in the Public Health White Paper: a minimum unit price for alcohol; standards and regulations for cosmetic practitioners; tougher restrictions on internet tobacco sales; and a proposition to restrict the use of e-cigarettes in public places, bringing them into line with other tobacco products.

But he insists this does not amount to acting like a ‘nanny state’. He will say: “Taking concerted, collective action to address public health concerns remains one of the most powerful contributions any government can make to the welfare and wellbeing of its population. And I’m very proud that Wales has a long and progressive tradition when it comes to taking action to protect public health in Wales.

“For the nay-sayers, any attempt to protect public health is met with the inevitable cries of nanny-statism but our proposals … take a preventative approach by seeking to intervene at points which have most potential for long-term benefits, both in the health of individuals and in helping avoid higher, long-term societal and financial costs associated with avoidable ill health.”

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