Our first reaction to the publication of ‘Advancing our health – prevention in the 2020s’ is disappointment, both with the way in which the consultation was launched and with the content of the document.
As doctors we are committed to the belief that – as the health secretary’s November 2018 vision said – prevention is better than cure. And we are reminded of it each day as we manage wards and clinics that are bursting at the seams with people whose ill health could have been avoided.
Making sure people stay physically and mentally well is too important to be a political football, too important for clever buzzwords and alliteration, too important to be quietly released on a Monday evening, hours before the announcement of our new prime minister.
In 2019, we shouldn’t still be talking about “helping to shift the health system away from just treating illness, and towards preventing problems in the first place”. Prevention should be the very basis of our health and care system. We have known for hundreds of years that it is possible to lead healthier lives, and for decades that there are reasonable, low cost ways of helping people to do just that.
Perhaps the biggest omission from the paper is a clear understanding of the link between poverty and ill health. Government must act to tackle the significant and growing health inequalities that exist in our society. While individuals have a responsibility to look after themselves, there is something about the way our society is structured that produces this imbalance.
We will tackle this dearth of imagination head-on. We will work with our members to provide reasoned, evidenced-based responses to the proposals and to lay out what we think is missing. Because we owe it to the public – to help them live longer, healthier lives – and to our members – who will otherwise continue to pick up the pieces – to develop a true vision for prevention in the 2020s.