How Can We Save Our Darling NHS? Don't Worry - I Have a Plan

01/12/2014 13:20 GMT | Updated 28/01/2015 10:59 GMT

Other breaking NHS news stories: -- Cameron Admits NHS Is Under Pressure -- Staff Walkout Because Of Decision Not To Implement 1% Rise -- NHS England Needs £2bn Extra Funding to Avoid 'Financial Crisis'.

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How much longer can our beautiful NHS cope? She is groaning at the seams; becoming too ill to work; staggering under the weight of trying to carry all the sick people. And, sometimes she drops us because our demands are ever increasing. But she only has two arms and she may not survive.

Before we sink into a gloom about this titanic problem and trot off to the GP for some meds because we're so stressed (but we'll have to wait 2 weeks and will cost the NHS £24 a pop plus the cost of the subsidized prescription), I have a plan which will fix it. Here it is.

Suppose we all took more responsibility for our own health? What? You ask. Yup, that's what I'm thinking. That, instead of automatically booking an appointment with the GP, we Google the symptoms and check out what's wrong with us then take advantage of some aged old wisdom.

We could try taking ourselves to bed with an aspirin and a hot toddy until the symptoms subside. Or, listen better to our body and notice when it's just run down and needs rest. Perhaps we could identify any niggles and do something about them before it develops into a serious condition.

Or, even better, how about we start to manage our long term health so we don't get so sick in the first place?

With stress rates rocketing and obesity figures at an all time high, we don't seem to be taking care of ourselves. I'm no exception; a devil may care attitude with the junk food, sitting in front of the box and a splurge during wine o'clock does not leave me feeling good.

However, many illnesses are preventable. Like diabetes. The cost to the NHS is over £1.5m AN HOUR and 10% of the NHS budget. Yet the majority of diabetes (type 2) is preventable and brought on by lifestyle factors: an unbalanced diet, a lack of activity along with smoking and alcohol.

The problem is we've come to rely on Mother NHS to fix our health problems. Yet I would argue that many of our health problems are of our own making.

In other countries, where there is no free for all health service, people have to do whatever it takes to help themselves stay fit and healthy. I have friends in the US who have no health insurance. When they get ill they source all forms of treatment which don't involve going to the Doctor but they save that trip for emergencies. Yet, at the drop of a hat, we think nothing of booking in to our local GP for something that we've brought upon ourselves and, when we can't get an appointment for two weeks, we get angry.

For things to change, we've got to change to prevent our wonderful NHS getting any sicker. Her resources are limited yet she will stagger on for as long as she can for this one very important reason: at the heart of the NHS there is a culture of no judgment i.e. they do not criticize how the patient got there but they work as hard as possible to make them better.

So, the time has come for us to individually take charge of creating our own good health. A collective commitment will unburden the NHS which we can then leave for the medical emergency we hope we never have.

If just 1% of us began to do things differently, the results would be staggering? By that I mean not going to the Doctor for one year (barring emergencies of course) but finding alternative ways to treat our ailments. The impact on the NHS would be incredible. By my 'back of an envelope' calculation, and going on the NHS spend of an average* £300 per person each year, that would save £180,000,000 plus, the costs to the NHS of our subsidized medications. What if that figure was increased to 10%. Can you see where I'm going?

I don't like to put myself on any kind of pedestal but I haven't been to see my GP for at least 3 years. That's not because I'm any kind of hero but because my husband has cancer. I've seen enough of doctors (for his appointments - and that's when the NHS is incredible) to last me - well, three years. I took the decision to take more responsibility for my own health and I will only go if I have an emergency.

So, let me share with you what I've done:

1. I've cut the stress. Research upon research shows that too much stress decreases the immune system which creates disease. The doctors cannot fix our stress levels; that is something we have to do ourselves. There are many ways to start. Things that have been proven to cut stress are: exercise, meditation, less alcohol, stroking a pet and thinking less. Reading Eckhart Tolle helps.

2. I've cleaned up my diet. Obviously I'm eating five portions of fruit and veg a day! However, studies show that 7 -10 portions is what we should aim for. We can no longer afford to pay lip service to this advice. Eating better also helps us cut out more of the bad stuff. Trans-fats, high quantities of sugar, all point towards damaging our health. (Read my book "Superfoods To Boost Your Mood" for more advice.)

3. I get more exercise. We're now being told that taking up more exercise is more important than giving up smoking! We're not just talking about going to the gym, it's referring to our sedentary lifestyles. Sitting in front of screens is creating a health apocalypse. If we start by daily walking we can immediately improve our health.

4. I've (almost!) quit poisoning my body. Cigarettes, alcohol, drugs. If we want to feel good these have to stop. The amount spent on treatments for alcoholism and drug addiction and smoking-related illness far outweighs the taxes these items contribute to the NHS.

5. I seek alternative medical treatments. We have enough experts in this country that can help us feel better without having to burden the NHS. For example Chinese medicine is a traditional approach to integrated health. There is over 2000 years of research that proves that regular acupuncture and herbal medicine make us feel better and live better. It can regulate the heartbeat, decrease stress, sooth and smooth stress, is a great pain management, helps insomnia and, as a result of regular treatment, can give you more energy. In China you stop paying your doctor when you get ill! Of course this costs money but - for the price of good health - it's not a lot.

We need to step up and help ourselves to help our NHS. Instead of bitching and complaining about the service she gives, how about asking ourselves: what can I do today to make a difference to my health which will, inadvertently, help her?

** Take into account this figure hides huge disparities, between those who booked a routine appointment with their GP - or those unlucky enough to need treatment for cancer, kidney failure or other life-threatening conditions.