This was when I found out I was both still alive and relatively healthy for a man of my advanced years!
Sometimes going to a conference can be really useful and I was very much both challenged and excited by the one I attended today run by Public Health England.
I learned some facts today that I was quite surprised at:
• 50% of all strokes and heart attacks are unexpected
• 5,000,000 people are suffering from undiagnosed hyper-tension
• Only 3% of the healthy budget is spent on public health which is designed to keep people healthy. 97% is spent on helping people to recover.
• Liverpool is in the bottom third for people receiving an NHS health Check
I suspect that these things are inter-related. The people who do not go for health checks above all are men, especially those in manual jobs and people from ethnic minorities. Liverpool has more than the national average in both demographics but this is not an excuse. Leicester has a much higher level of ethnicity than Liverpool does and yet they are the best performer so that there is much to learn from them.
Liverpool needs to learn and do things very, very differently. As I have mentioned before our life expectancy is on average 10 years below that of the rest of the UK. Yet this conceals a huge disparity. In my Church Ward we are likely to live 10 years longer than the Liverpool average.
We were told time and time again today that early detection means that people are far more likely not to have an illness or if do they will be much more likely to recover and recover more quickly. Put together the low level of health check take up and our poor life expectancy and you might just see a pattern.
Last week I had meetings with representatives of two health groups that I feel could be much more proactive and that I feel should be recognised much more as the front line of the health service.
On Tuesday I met some dentists. They point out that they can spot medical conditions early on because people do not just see people when they are ill.
On Friday I met some community pharmacists where the same thing applies. They see people regularly. They can see changes in patterns in the way people dress, talk and behave.
I am sure that a similar discussion could be had with opticians who can pick up glaucoma and other problems but also see people on a more regular ‘none-ill’ basis.
Both these groups have a role in illness prevention which should be used more because it is both timely and cost effective.
In addition to this there is a lot more technology which can be used for initial screening. In the space of two minutes today I had by body mass index checked, my heart beast and my blood pressure. The machine did not give me a diagnosis but it could have given me a warning. Had I been outside the parameters for people of my age it would have recommended that I went to see my Doctor and perhaps caught a condition in good time. I am sure that some people will regret this but I can report that I am rude good health with a slightly high blood pressure! More surprisingly for those that think I haven’t got a heart my heart age is just 1 year older than my actual age!
Liverpool Council now has responsibility for public health and has just been given responsibility for the health of under 5s and the health visitor service. I don’t believe that it is thinking radically enough to take advantage of these new areas of responsibility. The fact is that early detection and swift action could make a major difference to the lives (including the chance of life) for thousands of Liverpool people. By doubling the rate of health checks we could save thousands of early deaths or incapacitation. To be absolutely to the point it would save not only lives but money as well. The cost of looking after someone who is long-term sick can be tens of thousands of pounds a year. We don’t want to spend the money on such uses and people do not want to be that ill in the first place.
The Lib Dem manifesto for the Mayoral and local elections will recognise the need to shift from cure to prevention. Liverpool Lib Dems will:
• Move money around within the system where we are able to put more emphasis on health checks. We will seek to ensure that the Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group also begins to divert money to illness prevention rather than illness cure.
• Set as a deliverable target that 90% of Liverpool people will have had an NHS health check inside 3 years.
• Look closely at all groups who do not proactively seek health advice such as men in manual jobs and people from ethnic minority backgrounds and work out ways to bring them in for checking.
• Set an example by ensuring that all staff of the Council and our regular contractors offered health care screening to all staff.
• Work with opticians, pharmacists and dentists to help them establish themselves much more in the public’s mind as the front line of the health service and leave GPs to get on with spending more time on the seriously ill and those with minor ailments needing palliative care or just a chat than hard doctoring.
Lib Dems believe that we should not continue to accept the inevitably of our citizens dying earlier and living more unhealthily than any other part of the Country. Screening and health checks cost very little compared to the cost of illness.
We owe it to the people of Liverpool to be more pro-active and more supportive about their health.