How we can help the NHS by taking responsibility for our own health

Article by NWS Diamond Member, Ann Girling


We are currently bemoaning the state of the NHS. Not a day goes by when it doesn’t pop up on the news and so it should. But what are we, as consumers, actively doing about it? In this blog I argue that we can all play our part.


Some Background Info

The NHS was founded back in 1948 when our health needs were so so different. People weren’t living so long with the multiple medical conditions they do now, many of which are related to modern day lifestyles. I was brought up in the fifties before the advent of supermarkets, fast food and TV dinners. Everything I ate was freshly prepared often with vegetables from our garden. My father developed his passion for gardening back then and carried on producing amazing vegetables until the last few years of his life. Ours was predominantly an outdoor lifestyle, and I still prefer to be in the open air. We walked to school because there was no car and, of course, there were no computers, mobile phones. Along with that the national vaccination programme was in its infancy so we were far more exposed to infection, which, I believe, contributed to me building a strong immunity. I share all of this just to demonstrate how lifestyles have changed in those intervening years. And, although it’s glorious to live in warmer homes, not everything is for the better.

I went into nursing and then health visiting and that’s why this subject is so close to my heart. As a health visitor leader it was a constant battle to get funding to provide a predominantly preventive healthcare service and I witnessed the inevitable, the National Health Service becoming a National Sickness Service with funding, in the main, going into hospitals. Just notice how much more often hospitals are mentioned in news reports than general practice and primary care. And yet, the NHS was built around a primary care model with care being provided in the community and close to home.


The Awful Truth

So let’s fast forward to the 21st Century and I want to share some pretty shocking statistics with you.

Did you know that £10 billion is spent treating Type 2 diabetes annually, that’s 10% of the NHS’s entire budget; put it another way that’s £27 million a day, just over £1 million an hour. These figures come from Rangan Chatterjee’s book “The 4 Pillar Plan”. Since 1996 the number of Britons diagnosed with this condition, he says, has more than doubled from 1.4 million to 3.5 million and there’s probably another million living with it undiagnosed. If left untreated, it can lead to other health problems such as circulatory problems to the legs and feet, vision loss and kidney problems.

The good news is that Type 2 diabetes is a largely preventable illness, and we can all do something to lessen our risk.


What can we do? Some stories

Several years ago my husband decided to put his height and weight into the NHS site and found, to his horror, that he was at high risk of developing the condition. He immediately made some changes to his diet and took more exercise. The consequence is that he significantly reduced his risk and still enjoys his food and his wine but all in balance.

Similarly someone we know who owns a restaurant in Liverpool had slowly gained a lot of weight. He was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and prescribed treatment. He decided to make some significant lifestyle changes, has lost a huge amount of weight, so much so we barely recognised him, and no longer takes the medication. Read my husband’s blog which shares this story in slightly more detail.


So what can you do?

So what can you do to lessen your chance of developing this condition and, at the same time, help the NHS?

Let’s look at what factors contributes to Type 2 Diabetes .. and I go back to Rangan Chatterjee for this very informative list, it’s not all about being overweight and consuming too much sugar which we can all be forgiven to think was the reality:-

  • Too much highly processed food
  • Physical inactivity & low muscle mass
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Persistently high stress levels
  • Poor gut health
  • Low levels of vitamin D
  • Environmental toxins

Phew .. that’s quite a list, thank you, Rangan! It does give us quite a lot of options, though, doesn’t it? Some of these factors are within our control, some of which less so so what can you do? Here are some examples:-

  • Eat less processed food, start looking at what’s in some of these products because you can bet your life there will be a lot of sugar. If a product has more than five ingredients, it’s over processed, so think about alternatives
  • Take some exercise every day and make sure you enjoy it, otherwise the habit won’t last
  • Can you get more sleep? If it’s something you struggle with, keep your phone and your TV out of the bedroom. The blue light from the screen kids your brain into thinking it’s day time. And develop a night time routine so your brain starts to realise what’s going on!
  • What can you do about your stress levels? I know that’s easier said than done. One tip is to take time to breathe when you feel stressed. Breathe in for 4, hold for 4, breathe out for 4. Or you could make sure there’s time for self care built into every day even if it’s sitting down with a cup of tea and a book for 10 minutes. What do you love to do that would help your self care?
  • As for your gut health, that is something I have solutions for, and at the very least, take a probiotic which will start to introduce good bacteria into your gut which may be lacking right now
  • Take a vitamin D supplement from October through till March
  • As for the environment, that’s not so easy although the CC cream I wear on my face does have some environmental protection in it!


So there you go .. it’s time for all of us to take some responsibility for our own health so that the NHS can focus on those who desperately need them. And if you do want any help, particularly with your gut health reach out to me on or join my Facebook group where I do talk about this kind of thing.

Share this...
0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *