This is a transcript of my My View column that was published in the Doncaster Star on Monday 4 September, 2017
One of the key aims of the NHS is to move from being a service that has historically treated people when they are ill to one that helps prevent people becoming unwell in the first place.
As the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure. But this is unlikely to happen by chance and requires a major change in behaviour, encouraging people to take more of a role in looking after their own health and wellbeing.
Understanding your body and what’s normal, spotting something that doesn’t seem right and getting it checked out if needed, will help make best use of NHS resources.
It enables doctors like me to detect potential diseases at an early enough stage for patients to be given treatment to cure them.
But to prevent more Doncaster people from developing and dying from conditions like cancer and heart disease, we need to better equip them with the knowledge they need to not only live healthy lifestyles but also to be able to spot the early signs of disease.
There are regular nationally produced health awareness campaigns that shout at us from the TV, radio and other media, and we add our own in Doncaster to give them a local Yorkshire feel.
We know from past experience that ‘one size doesn’t fit all’. So we do our best to make sure our health messages are appropriate to the audience we are trying to reach.
Good examples of this are our cancer awareness campaigns we have jointly produced with representatives of Doncaster’s learning disability community. Some people need a bit more help to understand the messages we are trying to give and using simple words and pictures can help explain things in an easier way.
We have worked with Choice for All Doncaster (ChAD) – a local voluntary group that speaks up for those with a learning disability – to produce a series of poster campaigns that do just that.
By co-producing them with the ChAD volunteers, we have sought to ensure the health messages we want them to remember have been presented in a way that suits them. They have had editorial influence and been involved at every stage of the development of each campaign.
A recent campaign poster features ChAD member Fay Abbey and Doncaster GP Dr Lindsey Britten urging people to spot lung cancer early.
Fay uses her best acting skills to highlight four important symptoms to look out for: coughing for three weeks or more; coughing up blood; feeling breathless; and having chest pain when breathing or coughing.
The message is: if this is you – go and tell your doctor now!
I met Fay to thank her for helping the NHS to spread these important messages. People with a learning disability often have poorer physical health than the general population, so the more we can do to help them spot early warning signs, the better.