2 Jul, 15 | by Iain Brassington
“Personal responsibility” is a strange phrase: while not as slippery as some, it can mean any number of things, and be put to use in any number of political contexts. It was the title of the speech that the Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, gave yesterday. In that, he spoke of three aspects to the concept.
First up, he talked about the need for personal responsibility for health – that while the NHS tops the leagues in a lot of respects, the UK as a whole is bad when it comes to “lifestyle illnesses”, particularly things derived from obesity and smoking. I guess that telling us that that’s bad and we could look after ourselves better is something of a bromide; but slightly more jarring was the statement that
[t]hankfully people are starting to take more responsibility. Doctors report dramatic increases in the number of expert patients who Google their conditions and this can be challenging for doctors not used to being second-guessed. But it is to be warmly welcomed: the best person to manage a long-term condition is the person who has that long term condition. The best person to prevent a long term condition developing is not the doctor – it’s you.
This is worth noting for a few reasons: first, it’ll be interesting in the context of what I’m going to say in a couple of paragraphs’ time; but there’s a couple of other things worth noting. While the final sentence may be fairly unobjectionable at first glance, the penultimate and antepenultimate ones seem much less obvious. Management of long-term conditions may be best left to the patient in some cases; but in all? That’s not nearly so obvious. It’s particularly unlikely when Dr Google is the purported source of information. Dr Google, after all, may send you to NHS Choices – but it may also send you to What Doctors Don’t Tell You*, or sites that are even more obviously written by and for what we may politely call aluminium milliners. Sometimes, patients doing a bit of homework is a good thing. But sometimes, they’ll just end up asking for colloidal silver therapy. (What could possibly go wrong?)
I’ll come to the second theme in a moment; the third thing he talked about was taking responsibility for our families. more…