The Liverpool Lib Dem Manifesto section dealing with health. We are the only Party to mention health in this election
I attended a really excellent meeting of the Drinkaware campaign last Thursday, indeed I gave a speech and joined a panel discussion. This like all good conferences, challenged me and made me think even more about health, people’s attitudes to health and what I should be doing about developing better health policies and strategies.
The really nice thing about the Drinkaware crowd is that they were not finger wagging and censorious about the ‘demon drink’. In fact most, if not all, the speakers said they were themselves drinkers. What Drinkaware was doing was looking at specific drink problems and helping people set their own reasonable guidelines for drinking safely.
Men and women are now recommended not to have more than 14 units of alcohol a week. You are also recommended not to save them up for a binge session all at the same time. Spread them out sensibly through the week, with a couple of days of no drinking, provides no harm. It enables the organs of the body to function properly and refresh themselves outside the drinking periods. Drink more than that and your body cannot recover. Drink a lot more than that and it will rapidly deteriorate and the likelihood is that you will die earlier than otherwise because of that poor health.
Of great interest to me was the fact that many people will be amazed at one of the biggest problem areas. Not young people getting legless on a Friday and/or Saturday night; not the people who are out in the street drinking ‘Bucky’ out of bottles concealed in paper bags. Of course these are areas of and people with concern. No, one of the biggest concerns is professional men aged 45-64. They have the money to drink; often get drink free and are absolutely sure that they can cope. “When I wake up in the morning I feel fine”; “My drinking doesn’t stop me doing my job properly”. So that’s all right then. No it isn’t. Under your skin you organs are beginning to malfunction and eventually your cognitive functions will be reduced.
The recommendations on alcohol are the same as the ideas on other drinks and foods. Don’t give up sugary fizzy drinks altogether just have one a month as a treat. A ‘Greasy Spoon’ full English breakfast is Ok now and then but not every day.
The same is true for exercise. You do not need to do a marathon or burn yourself out in a gym. Just walk quite fast for 30 minutes three times a week. Just walk somewhere if it only takes you 20 minutes instead of getting in the car or on the boss. Moderation is fine in what you do as well as in what you eat and drink.
You will see from the picture above that we are placing great stress in our election manifesto on health matters given the increased influence and power that councils now have since the creation of Health & Wellbeing Boards and the transfer of public health back to local government. Liverpool Lib Dems are the only Party to include health in our local and mayoral manifesto. This is hardly surprising as we are the only party to have an election manifesto! If you want to see more then you can find the link to it at https://richardkemp.org.uk.
What particularly struck a chord with me though was the fact that we and Drinkaware have the same view as to health can be improved. Of course clinicians and staff in the NHS are important. But they are only part of the picture. In fact there was not a single representative of a Clinical Commissioning Group present at the conference. But there were people from charities, public health, local government, the Police and self-help groups. None of us can solve complex health problems by ourselves. But together we can work to provide the research to build on and the systems to deliver real cultural change which is the only way we can bring both growing health problems and especially health inequality under control.
I was especially impressed by their suggestions about who can do more on the front line. Professionals like pharmacists, opticians, dentists can do so much more to deal with a range of symptoms which could readily be treated early. All this was confirmed to me by my cousin who has been a GP for more than 40 years. He believes that more than half the people that he sees do not need a doctor. They need reassurance for their symptoms rather than medicines or treatment. They see a trip to the Doctor both as their right and as part of their social life. That means that our GPs cannot spend all the time they want to with people who are really ill. Other people could provide that reassurance.
My GP cousin also confirmed how much illness is really in the mind. People with a positive outlook don’t get ill so often and recover more quickly when they do. That’s why it is so important to get people into work. Who would not feel dressed and ill if they thought that they had no future and no money for the little pleasures in life that we all like.
But perhaps this leads to the most important conclusion shared by Drinkaware and all the other proactive health organisations. That the main determinant if health is us. If we do the right things; if we think the right way; if we are supported the right way we can all live longer and healthier lives. That must be the target for all politicians in Liverpool.