Ad is loading...

Should The Struggling NHS Be Paying For Your Life Choices?

© Shutterstock

Geeta Sidhu-Robb, health expert and founder of home delivery service nosh detox, thinks not...

I don’t think we’ll ever see the day when the NHS isn't dominating headlines. And this month, true to form, almost every time I switch on the TV, I see stories about it being crippled by rising demand and, this winter, Australian flu. But while the NHS faces scrutiny for the staggering number of deferred operations, lengthy waiting times, lack of beds (the list goes on), it’s time to accept that, though it’s easier to blame poor management of the health service, actually, we are a large part of the problem.

Since its inauguration in 1948, the NHS has been a core pillar of British society. Universal access to free healthcare is an incredible luxury that many, even in the most developed corners of the globe, can only dream of. So why do we, as a nation, seem resolute on bringing the organisation that affords us the prerogative of good health to its knees? Much of the strain in inflicted on the NHS is caused by people’s poor diet and lifestyle choices, and it’s high time we stopped paying the price for that.

A healthy lifestyle – through good diet and exercise – is a choice. It is not a gift, a luxury, luck, or an entitlement of the privileged few. Of course, I am looking beyond the non-discriminatory diseases that cause so much pain and loss, affecting even the healthiest of people. But, on the whole, we are in sole control of the way we live our lives, so why would our health be anybody’s responsibility but our own?

At the end of last year, a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found that the UK is the most obese country in Western Europe. And in October, the World Obesity Forum predicted that unless action is taken, the cost of treating obesity-related illness in the UK will rise from £14bn to £22.9bn in 2025 (far more than the £350m a week the Brexit bus claimed we’d be getting back by divorcing from the EU). Looking at those stats, is it any wonder the NHS is on its knees? It’s time to get our heads out of the sand and realise that we cannot and should not fund the bad choices of those who abdicate their responsibility to be healthy.

Does this sound controversial? It shouldn’t. We don’t let people drive when drunk – we know that opting for alcohol means you also choose not to drive. We don’t operate on smokers until they give up cigarettes – we know they’ll just get sick again otherwise. So why not extend this to people who consistently make bad health choices? When do we conclude that if you choose an unhealthy lifestyle, you also ‘choose’ to stop using a system that is already under extreme pressure?

Your health is an investment in itself. Spending on wellness is just as vital as buying a house or car, and it’s significantly cheaper. Your health should surpass all other priorities. What does it cost to live an active lifestyle? To eat good-quality, healthy food? As someone who has worked in the health industry for over a decade, I can tell you that the costs can be minimal, yet the results immediate and life-changing. Small changes have huge benefits for your health.

It is a severe bypass of moral culpability to expect others to suffer for your poor life choices. And those who are not opting to lead active, healthy lifestyles should be held accountable for depriving or delaying treatment for other, more deserving, cases. Because ultimately, as the NHS continues to drown in a multitude of obesity-related cases, it is those who are in need of urgent help, through no fault of their own, who will su er the consequences. The longer we blame the system, the less likely we all are to take personal responsibility.

Life choices affect not just us, but future generations. There are few greater responsibilities than that of parenthood, and one of the key remits to being a good mother or father is doing everything in your power to ensure your children grow up healthy. This is impacted by our own health – which we pass on to our children in the womb. Post-birth, our food and health choices are also passed on to our children. But we can only teach our children the importance of a healthy lifestyle if we understand it ourselves.

And while I’m not imagining that everyone could or should make the switch, there are drastic steps we can take, like converting to a vegan diet. While veganism seems like simply the latest wellness trend, there is much to be said for the rewards. Vegan diets are naturally lower in saturated fats and cholesterol and have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease due to their higher intake of fibre, phytonutrients, antioxidants, flavonoids and carotenoids. It’s rare to find an obese vegan. But good health can be based on making smaller changes in our everyday lives – so it’s time to stop playing the blame game.

We all have the opportunity to eat and live in the right manner. To rely on the NHS to bail us out, when our pain is self-inflicted, is scandalous. At a time when it’s struggling, ask yourself: are you doing everything you can to help prolong its life

Check out these fitness trends for 2018...

READ MORE: Will You Go Vegan This Christmas?

READ MORE: Reduce Calorie Intake To Just 1,800 Say New Guidelines

READ MORE: Scientists Are Trialling A Universal Blood Test For Cancer