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We Need to Tackle an Increasing Lifestyle Burden to the NHS

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The future of our healthcare service may be in jeopardy if we stand back and don't do anything about it. We have to act now before it is too late. Younger generations are in danger of not having the opportunity to enjoy the "free NHS" at the point of use that older generations have had the opportunity to take for granted for so long. Severe challenges including increasing obesity levels, changing demographics and increased treatment costs are a significant strain on the current National Health System.

Healthcare costs, driven upwards by an inexorable increase in patient demand, have reached a tipping point. Any politicians who think that the current NHS financing model can be sustained in the medium to longer term under that onslaught are deluding themselves. The reality of healthcare demand in Britain today has changed and will be changing even further over the coming decade.

I care about my country and its people and that is why I am emphasizing the need to focus on the demand-side of healthcare provision. In these challenging times, healthcare responsibilities should be shifting slowly from the State to the individual. No doubt changing the public's mindset on this issue will be an extremely arduous political process, with no short-term reward, but we have no choice. For those of us who want to protect the fundamental principle of access to all we need to start engaging the British public in this difficult debate.

Working as a GP, I have seen over 50,000 patients and it has been striking to see the stark differences in attitude developing between the generations. The stoic post-war attitude appears significantly different to that of younger generations. When baby-boomers hit their 80s after 2025, around 25% of the NHS budget will already then be spent on diabetes alone. Without doubt, an increasing number of people are getting prescription medication for conditions predominantly to do with lifestyle choices. Clearly, I am not saying that all do, but to ensure that the chronic and terminally ill patients of the future have the care that they need we need to make some tough decisions about future funding now.

I want people to be free to choose any lifestyle they wish at the same time as understanding the future healthcare cost ramifications of such a choice. I want to give more to the truly deserving because we have spent less on those who were perfectly able to provide for themselves. Consequently, I believe moving the responsibility for drug costs away from the State to the individual, would allow the individual to attach such a sense of responsibility.

Over the last decade we have doubled the spending on the NHS. Are we really in a position to double it again? In putting forward my policy I am merely suggesting that the individual take on responsibility for just 2% of current total annual government spending, which is less than 15% of the healthcare budget. Is that really too radical to suggest?