Healthier people should receive priority healthcare, says think-tank
13th March 2013
dietA think-tank organisation yesterday spoke of their belief that patients who adhere to a healthy lifestyle that is low in dietary fat and engage in regularly exercise should be placed at the top of NHS waiting lists for operations. Perhaps controversially, the think-tank Demos have stated that people should have the ability to prove they are living a healthy life via supermarket receipts and gym membership forms and therefore have access to priority NHS treatment. Their ideas could also involve moving up professional patients higher up the queue when booking a GP appointment for a non-emergency issue. In their somewhat contestable report that was published yesterday, a wide range of recommendations are given that seem to urge the British public in to taking responsibility for their own health and wellbeing – instead of purely punishing the ‘lazy’ people consistently who consumed a poor diet. The report was constructed after liaising with experts, policy makers and politicians. Another recommendation from Demos is that those patients who receive benefits should be rewarded with more money if they are exercising and eating a balanced diet with more fruit and vegetables. Demos want supermarkets to provide feedback on shopping baskets, making shoppers aware of the benefits of fruit and vegetables as well as the dangers of alcohol and saturated fats. The think-tank argue that the current system needs addressing as patients who leading an unhealthy, sedentary lifestyle are at a much higher chance of requiring the already dwindling resources and funds available to the NHS. In addition, Demos are trying to coax ministers into exploring the schemes offered by many insurance companies whereby there are incentives to those customers with healthier lifestyles such as reduced rates on gym memberships.  Demos comment: “There is scope for the NHS to provide its non-emergency services in a way that takes account of responsible behaviour.” The report's author, Max Wind-Cowie, said: “Obesity, type two diabetes, smoking and the overconsumption of alcohol are things which cost the NHS, which is a pooled resource we all share, huge amounts of money, as well as actually making people's lives unhappy and reducing their living standards. So we're arguing that people who take the option of sharing their Tesco club card information, their gym information, with their doctor – it's up to them whether they want to share it or not – and then allow their doctor to monitor that, we would empower doctors to reward people in a variety of ways.” As with many disputable ideas put forth by think-tanks such as Demos, there are oppositions to the suggestions who believe there are better methods of tackling such issues, in this case the spiralling obesity crisis in the UK. Katherine Murphy, the chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “Proactive investment in prevention, public campaigns and health literacy can deliver change more constructively than punitive sanctions.” Although it could be a nice prospect the thought of being rewarded simply for leading a healthy life, not many people will probably enjoy the idea of their private shopping habits being transmitted to the government. The responsibility of the public to ensure their health is properly maintained is a topic bound to cause divisions. However, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of developing a disease or health problem such as quitting smoking, engaging in regular exercise and eating a balanced diet.