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Healthy balance

Whatever you think of media coverage of high-profile personalities’ battles with cancer, the effect has been an increased awareness of these cancers and the importance of monitoring your health and getting yourself screened, even if you feel perfectly well at the time of your check-up.

In the UK, in particular, there has been a rise in the number of smears and screenings for cervical and breast cancer as women have realised that it could happen to them.

In an ideal scenario, everyone – women and men – would be going for screenings regularly or at least be scheduling a check-up with their GP on a regular basis to keep on top of any potential problems. However, the reality is that it is difficult to find the time or the motivation to go for a check-up, let alone a health screen, when you do not have an immediate concern.

This is the reality of the delicate balance that we in the healthcare industry have to navigate. When someone is sick, the benefits of access to private medical insurance are immediate and the cost of it less important. Yet when someone is well, convincing them of the benefits of PMI is more difficult because it seems less important and price becomes the immediate concern.

As an industry, we are also affected by NHS waiting times, which are falling, while consumers’ expectations on healthcare are rising. Other factors are the cost of healthcare, which is increasing, and customers’ willingness to pay more for it, which is decreasing.

If we could meet some-where in the middle (and by we, I mean the NHS, healthcare providers and the public) this delicate balance could become a more robust and constructive relationship.

If the NHS and healthcare providers could drive consumer awareness and education and the public were willing and able to take more responsibility for their health, to focus on the preventive rather than the curative side of healthcare, then we would be looking at a very different health sector scenario for all parties directly involved and society as a whole.

It is not that the public are inherently lazy or apathetic about their health, it is just that we value our time and we are generally over-optimistic about our own health.

So when it comes to monitoring our own health and wellbeing or working to make sure we stay fit and healthy, we are not quite so inclined unless we are already suffering from an ailment which needs medical attention.

If a balance could be created between the efforts made by the NHS and private-sector healthcare to look after healthcare consumers and the efforts of the public to look after themselves, then we would have both a healthcare system and a society to rival all others.

Shaun Matisonn is chief executive of PruHealth

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