What if you could retain your health for longer and enjoy your life better as a result. Even in the age of the aging population – it might be possible. 

I’ve got a brave new method to save the NHS lots of money. From now on, nobody should be allowed to get ill. I don’t mean that becoming sick or ill be made illegal, rather that doctors and other healthcare professionals should be in place so that illnesses and sickness isn’t ‘allowed’ to take hold.

By Tom Jamison, Able Magazine editor. 

You might think that it’s a pie in the sky scenario but what if we were taken care of so that we mitigated the possibility of becoming ill, or at least becoming really ill?

‘Healthcare’ is surely about the prevention and management side of health just as much as it’s about reactive treatment when we become ill. With this in mind, it seems obvious that we’re misusing the term since most of us really only see a doctor (or attempt to) when we’re under the weather – or when illness is beyond our amateur control. This isn’t strictly healthcare, it’s ‘sick care’ – care when we’re sick.

It’s clearly a good thing to have treatments available but it does seem that the NHS is collapsing under its own weight, not least because of this methodology. Patients with illnesses seem to be getting patched up only for the patches to wear out quickly and the situation to get worse.

Of course, as soon as we begin to split health care away from sick care we’re faced with other questions regarding what health and sickness actually are. Relative terms are difficult to conjure with but it’s clearly been too difficult to resolve sick care within healthcare so it might be a puzzle worth solving.

Being sick or ill to my mind is when we aren’t able to function at our full capability. We each have a responsibility to understand and protect our capability for the sake of common sense. For example, it is unlikely that a person of 75 years will have retained their capability of 50 years before and should act accordingly. It’s a sliding scale that we need to resolve as individuals.

Anyway, we’re getting off topic here. If we went to see the doctor when we were well we’d be able to track risk indicators such as weight, blood pressure and cholesterol. Once a brief assessment had been made we could then be prescribed a set of ideas about how to keep well or at least how not to get worse. As a result, acute incidents might well be avoided as would the need for intensive medication or medical intervention. The impact on the health and productivity of the nation would be enormous and would certainly have an impact on the costs associated with running the NHS.

Having worked within disability and as a disabled person myself, I’ve seen firsthand how well this system could work. I see a specialist twice a year and we talk about trends and test results and work out our best strategy. I’m not going to get better but I don’t have to get worse, if I make the right decisions. (There are plenty of people without disabilities that could truly benefit from this proactive approach.)

If this sounds like an unlikely approach, you might need to ask yourself why we bother with vaccinations or other preventative measures at all.

For the moment, we spend a lot of money on sick people instead of keeping people well. It’s an intense struggle to keep sick people from pain and death and in fact we spend an awful lot of money on trying to fix people that will shortly pass away. It might be that we don’t even get sick care – we get death care – care for people about to die – because we didn’t spot patterns or symptoms, because people don’t see healthcare professionals regularly enough.

Of course, we need to spend in areas concerning people that are near death but it should be about dignity and comfort. We should all be supported in order to live a full life for a lifetime, and then be allowed the grace to fade quietly away.