Linda Hindle from Public Health England offers some pointers on making the care system more sustainable
It is widely accepted that the current health and care system is unsustainable without radical transformation.
The ageing population, advances in technology and financial forecasts are all placing pressures on the system.
In response, there has been a drive to prevent ill health and promote wellbeing, acknowledging that continuing to focus all our energies on treating ill health is too late and unaffordable over the long term.
The World Health Organization defines health as ‘a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’.
Enabling individuals and communities to lead healthy lives means acknowledging the value of our environment.
This is why the NHS, public health and social care system has come together for the first time to create a joint strategy on sustainability.
This document, supported by the Allied Health Professions Federation, outlines three goals, all of which physiotherapists can contribute to:
Goal 1 Creating a healthier environment
A healthier environment can contribute to better outcomes for all.
This goal involves valuing and enhancing our natural resources while reducing harmful pollution and carbon emissions. Most of us are already being environmentally friendly with what we buy, throw away and the energy we use.
This goal asks us to consider this in every decision we take, such as how we invite patients to appointments, how we provide information, how often and where we see people and how we communicate and get together as teams.
Goal 2 Communities and services are ready and resilient for changing times and climates
This goal is primarily about the resilience of communities to cope with the impact of climate changes, such as the recent floods or bouts of extreme weather.
Physios can contribute to this goal by supporting individuals to be resilient.
You might, for example, give advice about keeping warm during cold spells, how to access the ‘health through warmth’ scheme or help people to obtain the benefits they require.
Goal 3 Every opportunity contributes to healthy lives, communities and environments
This goal requires all health professionals to use every contact with clients to minimise preventable ill health and prevent unnecessary treatment.
Physiotherapists in orthopaedic triage are a perfect example of this in action, as are those who promote increased levels of walking and cycling.
We need to ensure these goals are implemented systematically across the whole health and social care system.
Services are likely to be asked about how they are contributing to this agenda, so have a think with colleagues about what you are already doing and how you could do more.
To download a copy of the sustainability strategy, visit the Sustainable unit
- Linda Hindle is the lead allied health professional at Public Health England
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