Despite spending being at record levels, the NHS is in crisis. Staff are overwhelmed and struggling to cope. Ambulances are queuing at Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments. Young and old alike are left waiting for emergency crews to reach them. The service, in multiple places, is literally at breaking point.

Fingers are being pointed at politicians, lack of staffing, lack of funding, delays in care and poor care to name but a few. What is going on? How has such an internationally respected healthcare service seemingly been brought to its knees?

Source: Institute for Fiscal Studies

You were warned

Step back to the early noughties: then PM Tony Blair commissioned former head of Natwest Bank, Derek Wanless, to review the function of the NHS and find ways of making it work better. In 2002, Wanless and his team published their first report: ‘Securing Our Future Health: Taking A Long-Term View’. The report reviewed the health of the NHS, rather than its patients, and looked at its future needs. The report majors on patient engagement in relation to their health with a view to this helping them to use the health service more appropriately.

Wanless was also a big supporter of decentralisation, stating “The current reorganisation of the NHS is pointed in the direction of decentralisation of delivery to local units. I am convinced that direction is right and that greater local freedom can improve the overall health service significantly.” Such an approach would effectively give people more control and responsibility for health care. But what’s happened in reality? Over the intervening years, more and more local services have been closed — in a bid to save money.

Forward to 2004 and Derek Wanless and his team published a second report: ‘Securing Good Health for the Whole Population’. Building on his 2002 report, Wanless once again promoted a more sustainable model in which people are encouraged to take more responsibility for their own health “Individuals are ultimately responsible for their own and their children’s health and it is the aggregate actions of individuals, which will ultimately be responsible for whether or not such an optimistic scenario as “fully engaged” unfolds. People need to be supported more actively to make better decisions about their own health and welfare because there are widespread, systematic failures that influence the decisions individuals currently make.”

Self-care isn’t an entirely dead duck in the NHS.  It was highlighted again in the NHS Plan and in supporting people with longer-term conditions. So while the concept remains a ‘key’ building block for a patient-centred healthcare service, a notion to which the NHS is bound by its own constitution, it isn’t given anything like enough airtime. Some of this is down to variations in views about the concept’s meaning. The term ‘self management’ is increasingly used, and this is more about shared care between patients and the medical system in relation to the management of long-term conditions (including by using drugs). It’s less about staying healthy and avoiding being a burden on the NHS by blending an appropriate mix of healthy eating, healthy lifestyles, use of natural remedies and supplements, physical fitness, mind-body practice – and so on.

A more expansive definition of self-care (used at least up to 2011), that we consider more relevant, but has now fallen into disuse, goes like this: “the actions people take for themselves, their children and their families to stay fit and maintain good physical and mental health; meet social and psychological needs; prevent illness or accidents; care for minor ailments and long term conditions; and maintain health and wellbeing after an acute illness or discharge from hospital.”

The NHS’s Self Care Forum, that is responsible for a Self Care Week each year, now uses a simplified version of the definition, as follows: “The actions that individuals take for themselves, on behalf of and with others in order to develop, protect, maintain and improve their health, wellbeing or wellness.”

The Self Care Forum summarises its view on the continuum between self-care and 100% medical care in the following diagram:

Source: Self Care Forum

More than anything, true self-care that delivers high levels of health and vitality and prevents disease, isn’t working well for the majority. The NHS, and society at large, have together been spectacularly ineffective at getting large scale adoption of healthcare approaches that keep us healthy for most of our lives.

What’s gone wrong?

When the NHS was set up in 1948, its ambition was to bring good healthcare to everyone in the UK. Since then, there have been many changes in UK society:

Self-care – a sustainable priority

Too many people in the UK now rely on the NHS to deal with self-treatable conditions. The majority don’t practice self-care, believing their GP will resolve their health woes, these in turn relying far too heavily on false promises by the pharmaceutical industry.

ANH International has long advocated a framework of sustainable healthcare. This brings together the best of orthodox healthcare and natural health modalities that is personalised to the needs of the individual, along with improved and biocompatible self-care, earlier response to pre-clinical symptoms of disease, and improved disease prevention that includes lifestyle and nutrition based approaches.

The tide is beginning to change with younger doctors such as Dr Rangan Chatterjee and Dr Rupy Aujla recognising and embracing the concept of personalised medicine and promoting good health for all. These approaches are about treating the whole person rather than the disease. Interest in these approaches is growing across the world with pressure being brought to bear on healthcare authorities to re-evaluate their current models.

At the second Lifestyle Medicine Australasia annual conference late last year, our founder and executive and scientific director Rob Verkerk PhD, proposed an 8-point sustainable healthcare action plan. Next month, Rob will be delivering a keynote address on this subject at the Inaugural Integrative Medicine Conference organised by the Association of Integrative Medicine Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Take home

We have to not just rely on healthcare authorities or governments to fix broken healthcare systems, like the NHS. We – the public – have a key role to play and by showing we are not the ones clogging up the waiting rooms of GP surgeries, and we’re not the major players on the operating theatre waiting lists, we are able to demonstrate the power of self-care done the proper way, especially the natural way. That’s also what the Hawthorn project is all about. We need evidence that what we’re doing is working – it’s not about evidence from randomised controlled trials – it’s about evidence from the real world.

Let’s keep working together and do what we can to take responsibility for our own health.  Let’s achieve the highest level of health and resilience we can – and use the mainstream medical system only when there is no better alternative. Chances are, on the occasions when it’s necessary to use mainstream medicine, it will be more effective when delivered in an integrated fashion alongside other, natural, modalities.

That’s after all good, responsible and sustainable medicine – an approach that has never been more relevant, yet is still not supported or funded by the British tax payer.


  1. Take This Home!
    The blame lies solely on the individual who has given up responsibility for their own health and instead carry on being irresponsible and yet demand of others to pay for their irresponsible actions.
    Lets start with the basics. We have a declaration of human rights but where is the declaration of human responsibilities? How can it be sane to offer anyone rights (legally) without a contract of responsibility (legally)?
    All health is ‘natural’ if we are living responsibly but instead it feel like people defend the ‘rights’ of individuals live a junk lifestyle and the rights to be taken care of.
    Ask yourself, do you ask patients to sign a contract to take responsibilty to a healthy lifestyle as part of a recovery plan?
    If natural health practitioners don’t support a declaration of human responsibilities then who will? Medical doctors are drowning in irresponsible lifestyles.
    Natural health practitioners are the only hope.
    Robert Redfern (an angry ’72yr old’ young man)

      1. I think that comment deserves rather more than bland thank you. It reaches right down into the bowels of what is wrong with our “health” system. The mantra seems to be nowadays ‘I’ve paid for it so by damn I’m getting my money’s worth (even though I’m now in deficit)…..and I don’t care how much my smoking, drinking and junk food cost the rest of you, I’m entitled!’
        I have not set foot in a doctor’s surgery since 1996…. and even then it was on behalf of my mother…… and I do, marginally, resent the fact that I had National Insurance compulsorarily deducted from my wages for a system (drug slash burn) that I did not support or participate in, or at least for the 40 years of my adulthood when I began to take care of my own health and not rely on the 3 minute assessment of a pharmaceutically blinkered doctor. It definitely IS time the public was made to stand or fall by their ‘lifestyle’ choices. We DO have a reponsibility, to ourselves if to nobody else, to feel the best we can, by our own efforts.

        1. Sally, I think you being resentful about paying national insurance to pay for a free national health service for everybody is not good. I have followed a “self care” heath system for the past 50 years (now aged 78) too and have not troubled our busy–misguided– doctors very much or put much money into the pockets of Big Pharma, but I did not feel any resentment about helping to fund a free to all national health system imperfect as it is.

          1. Well Austin, that’s very noble of you, I must say. I only wish I could emulate your self denial. I’m not being sarcastic. I really do mean it.
            I on the other hand have a self-serving streak that feels a little cheated that I have helped, admittedly in a very small way, to perpetuate a form of “health” care that actively harms many of the people who participate in it. Is that ‘not good’?

    1. If you could rephrase this in terms of awakening responsibility instead of framing in blame – you would – I feel – give all support to the solution instead of intimating that the guilt of others is blocking the solution. Being ‘right’ can very easily become lacking in compassion and thus coercive upon others ‘for their own good’ or for the ‘greater good’.
      So much of what is mistakenly don’t under the name of ‘health care’ is believed right – or protected from challenge because dirty washing must not be allowed to break people’s obedience to the system.

      However freedom to think and act has consequences and those consequences belong with the thought and action. Responsibility for thought and deed is kept at bay (effectively blocked) by fear of blame and penalty. Attempts to magically evade our responsibility because we are afraid to face our lives, our feelings and our thoughts, are called ‘society’.

      I appreciate you feel what you feel and encourage you to feel it more directly – but in a curiosity and willingness for healing. There ARE agendas at work that have unimaginable funding leverage and influence, that tap into hopes and fears to manipulate or engineer society. While hope is better than despair – for it remains open to change as a positive opportunity – the carrot and stick methods of conditioning basically work upon all but the most vigilant – who can see tricks and deceits for what they are and choose NOT to take the bait or accept the framing of thought that seeming positive presentations can insinuate in the mind of the listener.

      Education is not about kids (only) but all of us throughout our lives. A fake education operates the carrot and the stick. Of course some life leaks through – and wherever it does is the opportunity to join in the willingness to grow it.

      As we who have some light, by giving welcome and recognition to it, grow in the responsibility to align our freedom in the true, we shine by who we are through whatever we do without even knowing it. For freedom to choose is the core worthiness beneath any error of an ongoing education. Blame blocks the educative curiosity. And those who are not only self-certain but seek to impose their own discoveries on others as if a moral duty, blame anything that does not conform and comply as an enemy or symptom to be eradicated, blocked, controlled and managed.

      What happens when we feel upset, disappointed, deprived or denied and powerlessly enraged – IF we take responsibility for our own experience? I find abiding in the ‘symptoms’ rather than trying to get rid of them, opens new insights, as an expanded perspective that connects with the presence of being – rather than the current packaging.

      Those seeking assistance in health issues may in fact have all kinds of issues that play a part in the current symptoms. Doctors are not trained so much as indoctrinated under a pharmaceutical monopoly. The Health service or insurance plans are captured by this monopoly along with the Media and regulatory agencies. So people are given false information and advice that works against their best interests, by a seeming megalith of ‘expertize’ and the force of peer pressure as socially expected behaviour – not only in relation to medical or phyical health, but in false thinking, shallow emotionalism or sentimentality and fantasy gratifications. The devil is beneath all the details, as our un-faced fears and attempt to cover them with magical or false hopes. This is a manipulative mind – and attracts the manipulative intent of others.
      The term ‘natural health’ implies there is some other kind 😉
      Because we fear and hate what we have made of our own nature, we project this as war on nature, that has redefined it in terms of a ‘fallen nature’ and now to a weakness and liability to sickness that must be manually taken over and of course denied and replaced.

      In broad terms the loss of sovereignty of will to consumerist corporate technocracy has been a progressive agenda over the last century and more. We have been bought or captured to dependencies and confinements that we all feel at some level (lack of joy is a marker for tyranny), but are socially normalised to accept.

      I don’t believe you can fight the ‘system’ without becoming fuel for it. But I do hold you can disinvest of what is unworthy and give wholly to what is. But you cant do this for another – excepting they awaken in the same purpose and gain strength with you.

      We are in a sense trapped in our own thinking. If this is said aloud, it would likely cause a smile because a mind cannot be trapped or in fact fundamentally CHANGED by the thoughts it gives focus to. Narcissus became entranced by his own reflected image at expense of awareness of relationship with Echo – and the wider reality around him. This is superficially understood as vanity of appearance – and while that is also tru – it is more that an image of our self is NEVER the truth of ourself. Any image of reality is not the Living Reality. How is this relevant? In ignorance of the living and the true, we make our own meanings and become entranced and identified in them. The dream turns to nightmare and the attempt to escape in terms of the dream only binds us more tightly to entanglement. And so it seems that if you just made the right laws, you could make it ‘right again’. or if we all rose up against unjust laws, we could make it right again.

      I trust you feel heard and joined with and invited to resume an education that seemed diverted by the actions of others and of conditions outside your control. But as the learner, you choose what to take at any given timing. Learning to transform anger to a deeper self-honesty and willingness cannot be thrust on anyone. But if our anger generates a crisis in which we are brought to an aspect of our own as yet unrecognised responsibility, then we are in the opportunity to learn and grow, instead of insisting we know what everyone else should do.

      Sickness management is not health care but the defining of health as a state of sickness risk! Don’t be negatively defined or else power is given to fear and yet believed to be protection.

      The Well of being is not in externals – but aligning in wellbeing attracts and aligns us with what we may accept of what we need at this time – and that may well include apparently external information, interventions and life choices.

      How much of our thinking is run by the sense that we SHOULD be loving? But this is the voice of guilt. ‘Helping others’ may in fact be an entanglement in evasion of life, responsibility and freedom. So what truly helps is first of all a service to another equal to yourself rather than a domination via another’s presented need. In natural humility and honesty, a discernment as to what the actual issue is and an agreed next step in aligning in health. Like I said some life leaks through, but doctoring the data so as to seem to know or seem to offer a reassuring presence – runs a false religion. Stepping out of line with centrally imposed ‘standards of care’ risks penalty. (A very long list could be made of such examples but Tim Noakes is a good news example).

  2. This government has failed to adequately fund existing services though and the current health minister is hell bent on privatising the NHS to make a profit for himself. People have been brainwashed for centuries that they’re not able to look after themselves, they have naturally lost confidence in their own ability to look after themselves, especially when it is allopathy that continually tells them they should trust the judgement and treatment offered by doctors, whatever the field. Many ADRs of prescription drugs result in further ill-health and people then end up on a cocktail to counter-act the negative effects and are too fearful to challenge their GP, not to mention the problem of tapering and withdrawal. Mainstream media negates any real discussion about holistic, natural approaches to health, especially homeopathy, or anything that appears too ‘hippy’ or ‘too simple’ approach in order to have any real effect on health. The over-prescription of medication in all ‘specialisms’ of health is a disgrace and causes such injury, some permanent, sometimes death, a known side effect of SSRIs for instance is an increase in suicide ideation, yet this is NEVER explained by the prescribing doctor, nor is it acknowledged that The Royal College of Psychiatry just last August (2017) debunked the myth that depression is caused by a ‘chemical imbalance in the brain’ – something that is unproved and unsubstantiated, yet brain damage in long term use is also highly likely (P Gotzsche). Sadly, whilst people continue with their dogma of worshipping those wearing white coats, change will be slow, if not minimal. Breaking that image, that power doctors have over the majority of the population will be extremely difficult due to the construct of our highly capitalist society that only really cares for ‘rationalist’ thought/ ‘logic’, shiny brands, ‘cures’ and conforming to those social norms, for fear of standing out, for buying ‘snake oil’ medicine/ advice as a way to take control of one’s health.
    Cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face comes to mind.

    1. Thanks for commenting. We will continue to spread the message about self-care and responsibility for one’s own health. A message that we believe is slowly beginning to seep into people’s conscious as they realise that things will have to change for the sake of future generations.

      Warm Regards

    2. Err, I think the NHS and medical control over our lives is a socialist idea(l) that criminal capitalists have realized they can make $£billions by making their fake treatments and vaccines mandatory. I notice they never make a, nutritionally rich, healthy diet and lifestyle mandatory as a treatment.
      By the way, it is not only a National Health Service (who do a great job treating acute trauma), it is also a National Disease Service run by a self-perpetuating mafia who do a terrible job at healthcare.
      The solution is to give people responsibility for their own health and if we are to have a socialized system then give people a voucher to spend as they wish for their health care (GP Practices or Natural Health Practitioners) and leave the NHS to treat acute care.
      The usual retort I get when I say this implies that most people are too stupid to make the right choice.
      If this is true then we need a test for stupidity and a requirement for all women of childbearing age to supplement iodine and its co-factor selenium as WHO suggests it solve this. I suggest the most scientific way to ascertain the amount is supplementing the same amount of iodine and selenium the is in the diet of the longest living people on the planet (Okinawa).

  3. The number of Doctors may have increased but many (most in my area) are working partime. They are choosing lifestyle over long hours and wealth.

    We also failed to train enough Nurses. The government made loans to Nurses for training instead of the unethical practice of “stealing” trained Nurses from poorer countries however a loan for a job that is not highly paid has deterred many. A few years ago there were 50k applicants and this year I understand it was around 12k. We need to give Nurses a bursary and a contract to work.

  4. I live in Greece and when we have a scan or blood tests we are given the results in our own hands – sometimes immediately after the scan or as in the case of blood tests – a couple of days later. I seem to remember in the UK there is not a conversation at the time of any tests and we are told that results will be sent to our GP. So you have to make yet another appointment in order to learn your results. It is my recall that often results reaching the GP were delayed/lost. This seems to me to be a huge amount of wasted hours of work that is not needed and the level of secrecy because patients are deemed unable to understand their results. OK so if I do not understand I can soon find someone who does. This – I know best attitude – creates additional stress too which is increasingly being recognised as a cause of illness – stress whilst waiting for results.

    So we keep all our own records which in a way makes us take an interest and become involved. We can also take those results to any consultant and be seen within hours by phoning and making an appointment – often speaking to the consultant him/herself. So no additional appointment to see the GP – then wait for the hospital appointment and then wait again for another GP appointment. Sounds like madness when you write it down ! In this computerised world there has to be a better way – and a way of saving money too.

    I am on a Health Forum with over 70,000 people and I read everyday of people wanting results so they can monitor their health and take responsibilty as is their legal right – but hey first you have to get past the Receptionist who insists the GP has to give permission. More time wasting for the GP and the patient who has to return at another time. And so this outdated system continues …. On-line systems are proving slow in some areas I have read.

    OK – I admit this is mostly paid for privately – I do not have Private Health Insurance – but it is affordable. After a dog bite was concerning my local Health Centre in the village I was sent to a main hospital where I paid 5 euro on arrival – sent to a Doc and came away with at least 10 euro worth of dressings 🙂 Surely no-one would object to a small fee at A&E or the GP. Every little helps.

    I pay around 25 euro to see a GP who ticks the boxes for some of the tests and on the same form I tick the other blood tests I need and for which I pay and the Blood Testing Clinic is just up the road. Results beautifully typed out in two days. I only see the GP once a year for my annual thyroid checks – the rest of my healthcare I do myself 🙂

    Of course as with all systems there are negative stories too – but hey I am happy and feel the UK system could learn a thing or two here. Controlling information may have been applicable back in the 50’s when the NHS was new – but surely it is time to treat all people as grown ups and allow them to take responsibilty by giving them THEIR information and freeing up time for GP’s as well as hospital staff.

  5. A technocracy is predicated upon and thus requires dumb operators of rulesets determined by ‘experts’ (elites) in a system designed to deny development of consciousness, skills and talents by making the system or technology a ‘sealed unit’.

    The idea that humanity is a mechanical system requiring such a top down management in terms that are presented as for the greater good, is reinforced by employing manipulative and coercive conditioning to engineer the social narrative identity that frames thought and reaction. The more people are treated as stupid – while maintaining a chokehold over freedom – the more they conform or predictably react in ways that are then engineered into the system.

    Most of us identify more strongly with the body when made fearful.This draws resources away from the whole. Maintaining control via fear is maintaining the conditions in which blind reactions are expressed or suppressed without any sense of freedom to challenge the narrative. Insiders know their own game but many operate under the belief they are protecting themselves.

    The model or understanding of the nature of life and health, is corrupted to become disconnected from serving purpose – and is serving sickness. Meanwhile the systems we have, have to serve despite their liabilities – while of course re-educating ourselves and growing what works.

  6. Was I lucky when 20 years ago I was told by my GP at that time that there was nothing further could be done to help me with the chronic illness I had developed (probably partly as a result of the last flu vaccination I had) and I must learn to live with it. I didn’t listen to him, again luckily, and found an Integrated Doctor who taught me how to “manage” my health and take control of it. Would you believe now people ask me what is the secret to the fact I am still working part-time at nearly 80 and also still fighting for more recognition for functional medicine

  7. I think a ” Contract of Responsibility ” is a brilliant idea, but as pointed out, for many years now people have been discouraged or made to be fearful of doing anything that didn’t involve the doctor or taking prescribed medicines.
    People have been encouraged to expect a quick and simple fix with a prescription. People now feel cheated, let down or even that the doctor is not doing their job properly, or that the doctor doesn’t care if he doesn’t give you that magic bit of paper to hand over for your bag of goodies.
    To be told that you can only get help if you stop smoking, drinking, over eating and leading a sedentry lifestyle would be a common sense move, but I could imagine the absolute turmoil it would cause, most likely something to do with “Peoples Freedom of Choice ” An odd concept that would lead us to ask Why is our Freedom of Choice being threatened ,when we want to help and treat ourselves ( or heaven forbid our children ) with alternatives such as Homeopathy and Herbalism which do not put a burden on the NHS ?

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