As part of a wider set of interviews carried out to reflect on the 65th anniversary of the NHS Sir Norman Fowler makes some points that may resonate with readers of this blog.
far, far too little time and money is devoted to preventing ill health. It is still simply not taken remotely seriously enough. Much of my experience is with HIV at the moment and with the recent select committee we did point out that the Government was spending £760 million a year on drugs to treat people with HIV. I’ve got no complaint about that, but they spent £2.9 million a year on government publicity to prevent HIV. Actually they’ve now reduced even that. It does show something of the kind of priorities that we have.
And I think that prevention needs to be given priority. I mean it’s all very well having a separate budget, and I’m all in favour of that, but what it really needs is to be given a lead, a strategy, a belief, because without that people are still not going to take it very seriously.
And that goes way beyond HIV. It goes to all the things that people talk about – sugar, obesity, smoking, alcohol. You are going to be shot at if you go into that area. People are going to talk about the nanny state and all that. But that just has to be taken on. If you do these things one by one, it is highly dubious whether you really have an impact. I’d be all in favour of a separate prevention budget. But what it really needs is a strategy and a belief and someone with that belief to push it forward.