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More health, less medicine – The drugs don’t work

  • by
Peter Kelly

THE NHS drugs bill has increased by 30 per cent in five years — 8 per cent in the last year alone, which equates to  an NHS spend of £16.86 billion.

We are spending too much money on drugs.

Richard Ashcroft of the Verve famously sang: “the drugs don’t work they just make you worse.” Now, as far as I know, Richard is not a qualified healthcare professional, but in many cases he has a point.

This is how our health service works. You feel ill, you go to the doctor, s/he assesses your symptoms and s/he recommends a drug, you take the drug and feel better. Is this the best, most efficient way to treat illness? This is not the approach I use for myself.

For good mental and physical health, you need to do the following:

  1. Sleep 8-9 hours a night.
  2. Exercise a minimum of 20 minutes a day. Proper exercise outwith your day-to-day activities. Exercise that requires you to tog out in exercise clothing.
  3. Stay hydrated, eat a healthy diet. For most people this means less take away, less sugar, less carbs, more veg, more fruit.
  4. Relax, chill out and relax, you cannot be going around thinking all the time, it is not good for your health.
  5. Have fun, have a laugh, have fun. Life is ridiculous and absurd. Don’t take it too seriously, it is not good for your health. Have hobbies, have passions, do creative stuff. All work and no play is not good for your health. We are not machines, we are human beings.

Now, if I feel ill or get some symptoms of poor mental or physical health, I look at these five areas and ask myself, ‘am I doing enough in these areas to maintain good health?’ if the answer is no, I make changes to my lifestyle. For 90 per cent of the patients I treat in my pharmacy, this should be the approach to tackling their health issues.

Depression, anxiety — am I getting enough sleep, am I exercising and doing activities that help me relax?

Type 2 diabetes — am I eating too much sugar, am I getting enough sleep and exercise?

Digestive problems — am I staying hydrated, am I eating right, am I sleeping enough, am I exercising, relaxing and having fun?

Headaches, migraines — am I staying hydrated, am I sleeping enough, am I relaxing and having fun?

Hypertension — is there too much stress in my life? Why am I not sleeping enough, eating properly, exercising, relaxing and having fun?

The list goes on and on, so how do you change the system? We need to redirect resources from drugs to active, engaging health living promotion. This is very doable, so we should set pharmacists up as healthy living coaches.

Patient comes in. They describe their lifestyle to you and you draw up a blueprint for them. Tell them what time to go to bed, when to get up, when to exercise, what to eat, recommend fun and relaxing activities. Each week they come in for another consultation to assess progress.

The NHS would save a fortune if they set up and paid pharmacists properly to be health coaches.

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