The below article is purely an opinion based article and is NOT Lib Dem policy – any comments are welcome
The NHS is one of Britain’s success stories and is the envy of the world. However, we are continually told that the NHS is in crisis and unless we have significant spending increases it will cease to exist as we know. With a growing and ageing population and a reluctance to fork out more money in tax it is clear that this problem will not go away without radical proposals.
It seems that finally we are getting somewhere. Yesterday (Wednesday 3rd June) Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of the NHS, said that it was a ‘no brainer’ to try and prevent illness rather than simply treating the effects. He said that the NHS needs to ‘pull out all the stops on prevention, or face the music’.
For years it has been clear that the lifestyle choices made by millions of ordinary people in Britain is getting worse. It is estimated that binge drinking costs the NHS £5 billion a year and with obesity levels rising sharply, the cost of conditions such as diabetes and heart failure, to name a couple, are only going to rise with it.
It is therefore time for some radical solutions, which I believe the Liberal Democrats should aim to be at the forefront of. One potential idea would be limiting the number of fast food takeaway restaurants. In Worcester there are many such outlets but the problem is far worse in more deprived areas particularly in inner city areas. Legislation to put a cap on the number of fast food outlets within a certain distance of each other may help solve this issue.
A so called ‘sugar tax’ may also be a solution. It has been the case for a long time that it is cheaper to buy processed foods than fresh foods. Reversing this may provide the incentive for many people to use fresh produce once again.
However, I think the main way to tackle the issue of poor lifestyle choices is through public education campaigns. From teaching basic nutrition to young children at schools to television adverts it is vitally important that people understand what constitutes a healthy lifestyle. As a country we have been far too passive on this issue. Look at smoking for example where a long campaign has seen numbers taking up smoking fall and the idea of smoking itself become far more socially unacceptable.
I realise that restrictions and taxes are not very liberal policies but I believe that if we are ever going to save our NHS this is the only long term option. Throwing more and more money at it will provide only a short term fix. The time to act is now.
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