The NHS has evolved into a "sickness system" primarily designed to repair those who fall ill and doing little to promote or improve health. This according to Professor David Hunter, a professor of health policy and management with Durham University, in his book, 'The Health Debate', which is published by the Policy Press at the University of Bristol, which analyses the challenges faced by the NHS.
Professor Hunter, a leading public health expert, warns that the NHS could become "unaffordable" within decades because of the cost of treating conditions linked to obesity, such as heart disease and diabetes. Ministers should force manufacturers to place warnings similar to those on cigarette packets on foods that contain high amounts of fat, sugar or salt, he said. The call comes just a week after it was revealed that the NHS now spends £750 million a year on drugs to treat conditions related to unhealthy lifestyles. More than one in four adults in Britain are currently obese, and experts believe that, if trends continue, half of British adults will be obese by 2050.
Professor Hunter comments, "One of the curious ironies of the NHS, and many other health systems like it, is that it does not pay enough attention to health, focusing instead on ill-health and disease. The NHS diagnoses and treats rather than predicts and prevents. The Government needs to shift this balance as the increasing cost of lifestyle-related diseases, such as diabetes, obesity and some forms of cancer, will prove financially unsustainable making the NHS unaffordable. Changing people's behaviour is difficult and merely giving people information and advice is known to be ineffective. It needs for the Government to take bold action to control rising obesity levels and other health problems. Yet, Government does not want to be accused of being the 'nanny state' and is reluctant to act on some of the determinants of ill health. Bold action on the part of the Government should include taking tough action to control levels of fat, sugar and salt in foods, as well as trying to narrow the income gap between rich and poor."