Are you taking part in Stoptober – the 28 day stop smoking challenge?

Dr Richard Sandford-Hill, GP

NHS Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group is urging smokers to take part in this year’s Stoptober Campaign, the 28 day stop smoking challenge starting on 1 October.

If you are a smoker, why not join in with England’s biggest stop smoking challenge – nearly a million people have taken part since Stoptober began five years ago. It’s never too late to stop smoking and quitting success rates are currently at their highest level ever recorded. If you can stop smoking for 28 days it’s widely reported that you are five times more likely to quit for good.

No matter how daunting it seems and even if you’ve been smoking for decades, quitting really is possible. Stopping smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health and 83% of smokers want to quit for this reason. As soon as you stop smoking you will start seeing and feeling the benefits to your health and your lifestyle.

Dr Richard Sandford-Hill, a GP at Market Lavington Surgery says: “We’ve all heard it before, but quitting smoking at any time of life will greatly benefit your health. I encourage every smoker in Wiltshire to quit this Stoptober and join together with friends and family to motivate each other throughout this 28 day challenge. It’s never too late to quit”

Dr Richard Sandford – Hill talking about quitting smoking

By signing up to Stoptober, you can choose from a range of free tools including daily emails, facebook and text messages to support and motivate you during Stoptober, or download the mobile phone app which includes lots more tips and advice – all designed to help increase your chances to stop smoking. You can also get more expert information from your local Stop Smoking Service on stop smoking aid available to you – Stoptober is here to help you.

Join in with the biggest stop smoking challenge of its kind, register with Stoptober now.

Taking your health seriously

Simon Truelove, Acting Accountable Officer

Not salisbury (4)

Luckily, many of us don’t have to worry about our general health on a day to day basis.  But  making sure we stay healthy and live as well as we can is our own responsibility.

We’ve all heard it before.  But eating a healthy diet, not smoking and being more active really is vital when we want to avoid potentially life threatening illnesses, such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease or stroke. Together with the Public Health team at Wiltshire Council, Wiltshire’s GPs are encouraging and recommending Wiltshire people to make small changes to our lifestyles to help us all feel healthier and live well for longer.

Dr Lindsay Kinlin GP at The Avenue Surgery in Warminster comments: “An unhealthy lifestyle has a huge impact on your health. Some pretty serious diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers can all be directly linked to a poor diet, lack of exercise and smoking.

Issues with joints, especially the knees and back, can be made much worse if you’re overweight.  Even carrying out your daily routine, such as putting your socks on, can be a challenge for some people.”

Give yourself a chance of enjoying a longer, healthier life by just making small changes.  The smallest changes to your habits can have a surprising effect – in your diet, perhaps by eating freshly prepared food and eating more fresh fruit and vegetables each day, or doing some form of exercise, no matter what it is, every day for just half an hour – can all help make a huge difference to our physical and mental health.

Walking is a great way to stay active, so instead of taking the car for short journeys, why not walk instead?

We all have busy lives. Health services are there to help you if you become unwell, but it’s important to remember that you also need to do what you can to ensure that you stay as healthy as possible, and only you can change your attitude towards your health.  Don’t wait until your health starts deteriorating;  take action now!

Simon Truelove, Interim Chief Officer for Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group says: “NHS budgets are continuously being stretched and we need to find ways to provide quality health services within a limited budget and to reduce the financial impact avoidable illness has on the health system in our county.

Making the right choices and taking personal responsibility for your health, means you become healthier and less reliant on our doctors, which in turn frees up valuable GP time to focus on those people who are most in need.

It also reduces the financial pressure on local NHS services and allows us to reduce the amount we spend treating those illnesses that are almost entirely avoidable”.

Keeping active, eating well and good weight management are the key to a healthy lifestyle. There’s lots of helpful advice and information on smoking, drinking, eating, moving, sleeping and stress on the NHS One You website.

The website also includes a quiz – have a check to see how healthy you are right now. It also provides tips on how you can start to live a healthier lifestyle.

Visit www.nhs.uk/oneyou and start your journey on living a healthier lifestyle.

Feeling unwell?  Choose the right healthcare

Simon Truelove, Acting Accountable Officer

Not salisbury (3)

In Wiltshire, there are numerous ways to get the right health care advice and treatment you need.  But when you’re feeling unwell it’s not always easy to understand which service is the best for you to use.

Because it’s so confusing, people very often go straight to hospital or to a GP.  But more times than not, that’s not the sort of treatment you need, and Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group is asking people to consider the range of options available before attending A&E or booking a GP appointment if you think you need treatment.

We have a range of services to choose from so that you don’t need to have to go to hospital or see a GP.


Many illnesses or symptoms – such as coughs, sore throats, upset stomachs and aches and pains can be treated yourself at home if you have a well-stocked medicine cabinet and if you get plenty of rest.

NHS 111

NHS 111 is a free-to-call telephone service you can ring when you need medical or dental help and advice quickly, but when it’s not an emergency. 111 is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


Your local pharmacist is a highly trained healthcare professional, who is able to give you advice on common illnesses and the medicines you need to treat them.  Most pharmacies have a quiet area or consultation room where you can have private conversations, and many are open during the evening and weekends.


If you have an illness or injury that won’t go away, make an appointment with your GP.  They provide a range of services by appointment, including medical advice, examinations and prescriptions.

A&E or 999

Accident and Emergency departments and the 999 ambulance service are to be used in serious or life-threatening situations.  A&E provides immediate emergency care for people who show the symptoms of serious illness or who are badly injured.

Dr Chet Sheth, GP at St Anne’s Street Practice in Salisbury, said: “We often see people in the surgery with colds and sore throats and, unless the patient is particularly young or old, they can often be treated by a local pharmacist with over-the-counter medicines. Pharmacists have a wealth of knowledge about a range of health issues and they’re experts in medicines – they can also help you to decide whether it’s necessary for you to see a doctor – or not – if you’re unsure.”

For sprains, dislocations, minor cuts and burns or minor eye injuries then one of Wiltshire’s two minor injury units, or the walk-in centre in Salisbury, will be able to help you. If you’re not sure about whether you need to go, then call the 111 service.  They’ll talk through your symptoms with you and advise you on the most appropriate place to go for treatment. If you need urgent medical assistance for a serious or life threatening condition, then always telephone 999 straight away.”

When we’re able to make the right decision on the type of treatment we need, we not only help keep ourselves healthy, but we help to free up time to allow doctors and health care professionals to focus on those people who need their services the most.

That way we all ensure we make the best use of the money we receive for health care and treatment in Wiltshire. Treating people in, or as close to people’s homes as possible, is fundamental to providing NHS services which truly meet Wiltshire people’s needs.

Our community teams

We have community teams working right across our county.  The nurses and healthcare professionals working in each team provide personal, seamless care for people living in our towns and villages, visiting patients in their own homes or at clinics in local buildings.  Your GP will refer you to a community team if you need the sort of treatment they provide, without you having to go into hospital. Every team cares for a number of people across an area of Wiltshire, linking into groups of GP practices.  Community team members have close relationships with other services, such as social care, mental health, domiciliary and voluntary services, to make sure that you get the right sort of care you need.

Our aim is for Wiltshire people to receive efficient, personal and joined up care which allows everyone to continue to live in their local community as long and as well as possible.  With the increasing costs of medicines and treatments, and a national shortage of GPs and other health professionals working in the health sector, the NHS is facing one of its biggest ever challenges.  But in Wiltshire, we’re carving the right path for patients, continuing to give people really good health care services and allowing you to have the right healthcare, for you, with you, near you.

Today’s NHS – it’s a challenging time

Simon Truelove, Acting Accountable Officer

Not Salisbury (2)

The good news is that as a nation we are living longer – but what impact does our ageing population have on the amount of money we have available to spend on healthcare?

With increasing costs of medicines and treatments, and a national shortage of GPs and other health professionals working in the health sector, the NHS is currently facing one of its biggest challenges.

In Wiltshire we are definitely living longer, but not all of us are living well in our older years. A significant proportion of our annual budget is spent helping older people and people with a combination of lots of conditions like Diabetes and COPD to live well. In Wiltshire, over 22% of our population is aged over 65 – and 75,000 of us are living with long term health conditions.

Dr Richard Sandford-Hill, a GP at Market Lavington Surgery, says: “Providing medical care for an increasingly ageing population is difficult. In my own practice a majority of my routine appointments are attended by people aged over 65, and those people often have complex long term needs”.

The NHS is used to doing as much as it can with ever-stretched budgets.  The shortage of people working in social care means that together with Wiltshire Council, we’re doing our very best to make sure we can support people.  And it’s not all doom and gloom – we’re making some great strides forward to make sure we can properly deal with some of the issues we are facing.

Our number one priority is to make sure that older people can get the care and treatment they need either in their own home, or as close to home as possible.  Wiltshire has an overall population of over 480,000 and the geography of our county is a challenge.  But by working with Wiltshire Council, using a specially-allocated budget called the Better Care Fund, our GPs have established new ways of supporting people to receive care, stay independent and keep well without having to go into hospital.  We’re making a real difference to the lives of people in the Wiltshire by tackling head-on issues such as social isolation which can have a big impact on someone’s health and wellbeing.

We know that we face a tough road ahead, but by working in collaboration with our health colleagues right across Wiltshire we can carve the right path through, and continue to give people really good health care services.

For more information about the current challenges we’re facing, visit our campaigns page.

Let’s work together to solve Wiltshire’s prescription problem

Alex Goddard, Deputy Head of Medicines Management

There are lots of people who, like me, like to stock up on the essentials; with a family of six, I’m never without baby wipes or a cupboard full of washing powder and I’m very keen to take full advantage of the supermarket buy one get one free deals. But, I also see this ‘just in-case’ attitude every single day in my job as Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s (CCG) Deputy Head of Medicines Management, when it comes to ordering repeat medication.

In Wiltshire, almost 1 in 4 people are on a repeat prescription. In fact, well over half (62%) of all prescriptions in Wiltshire are repeats and each month we dispense around 450,000 items on these prescriptions.

Blog image

However, we’ve found that 1 in every 15 repeat prescription items are not required because people already have stock. In other words that’s 360,000 items every year that aren’t needed. With each repeat prescription item costing Wiltshire £7.58, these unused medicines are wasting £2.7million every year. Just to put that into perspective, each of the following treatments also cost £2.7 million:

Wastage comparison

We’re dedicated to ensuring people have the right medication at the right time to help them stay well, however to continue to provide high quality health services in Wiltshire, we need your help:

Only order what you need

I know how comforting it can be to keep a stock of medication in the cupboard, for when you need it. However medicine does expire and your stock may be unusable by the time you get to it, or your prescription may have changed if a dose goes up or down. So when ordering your prescription, double check what items you already have and then only order what you need.

With most GP practices in Wiltshire now offering patients the choice to order repeat medication online or via email, it’s even easier to select just the items that you need at the time you need it.

Check your prescription before you take it home

When receiving your prescription from the Pharmacy/surgery, it’s easy to just pick up the bag and take it home without actually looking at what’s inside. Once you leave the Pharmacy/surgery we have to incinerate any medicine you return – even if it’s unopened. Each year in Wiltshire we spend around £42,000 to collect and incinerate unused medicine, and that doesn’t include the cost of the medicine! Quickly checking your prescription before you leave the Pharmacy could literally help us to save thousands of pounds.

Talk to your Pharmacist

Pharmacists are experts in medicine and can give you lots of advice and information about your prescription. If you’re:

  • not sure what a certain medicine is for
  • taking a different dose from what you’ve been prescribed

Have a chat with your Pharmacist; they may be able to carry out a medication review with you and make sure you are making the most of your prescriptions.

Who’s ordering for you?

Lots of people in Wiltshire have a friend, family member, carer, or pharmacy ordering their prescription. If you’re one of these people, have a chat with the person ordering your prescription and make sure they only order the medicines you need.

By working together and following these  simple tips, not only will we ensure that you continue to receive the right medication but it will also help us to save a considerable amount of money which will enable us to continue to provide high quality health services for the people of Wiltshire.

Find out more facts about Wiltshire’s repeat prescriptions in our infographic.

United we stand

Steve-Rowlands-2014_WEBWell the election has at last come and gone and we have a result that was somewhat surprising to many of us in terms of the overall majority.

One thing for sure is that public funding is going to be squeezed even more greatly and we are all going to have to tighten our belts and be more responsible and account for every penny we spend.

Austerity is upon us!

As a child I was always taught that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. I’m in absolutely no doubt that the going is getting tough.

So what do the tough do to get going?

Wiltshire is fortunate. We are really well placed – the tough have already got going and our CCG’s five year plan is well underway; we are starting to realise the expected benefits as our plans are delivered on the ground.

The whole premise of our strategy is to keep and look after people at, or as near to their home as is possible. This means spending more money on primary and community care and getting more bang for our bucks, by integrating services at home where at all possible, so that we ultimately spend less money in secondary care.

This all sounds obvious , simple, and easy to achieve. Be in no doubt that to get as far as we have has taken a lot of negotiation, hard work, persistence, persuasion and collaboration with local colleagues.

There’s a lot of noise. We have interference from our political leaders telling us that General Practice has to work seven days a week, fully knowing that even in Wiltshire we have recruitment problems for GPs .

We have three main district hospitals which provide our secondary care services, similarly feeling considerable financial pressures, and we have a council which has to make dramatic service cuts due to decreased funding.

As this week’s episode of Bear Grylls’ “The island” perfectly illuminated: “Once the going gets really tough, the default position is to reflect inwardly, with teams starting to fall apart, bicker and argue, with detrimental effect”.

Now, more than ever, all of us in our CCG must stand united together with all our members and key partners so that we’re able to deliver the best health and social care for the people of Wiltshire. Let’s not lose sight of what we’re beginning to achieve on their behalf; now is our greatest opportunity to provide them with the health care services they deserve.




Steve-Rowlands-2014_WEBOnly a week to go to the General election and the whole process has been superceded by the tragic disaster in Nepal; an ever-rising death toll and casualty list, and one’s heart can only go out to all those who have been affected.

Having lived through an earthquake of a magnitude of 7.7 in the Solomon islands ( I believe Nepal’s was 7.8) in which very few people were injured and with just one death, one has to ask why the huge difference with Nepal – where, at time of writing, we are looking at possibly 10,000 deaths and tens of thousands of injuries.

I guess the most important difference between Honiara in the Solomon’s in the 1980s and modern-day Kathmandu in Nepal is the size of the buildings. In Honiara no building was more than one story high and most were built of leaves and wood. Looking at the pictures from Kathmandu, most buildings are made of brick and stone and are many stories high.

The acute death toll would be as a direct result of people being injured from falling buildings, and now, more pressingly, aid is required urgently in order to prevent further death and disease from lack of food, water and shelter.

In Wiltshire we have a strong link with Nepal through the Ghurkha regiment based in Tidworth. Our Sarum Group GP colleagues support a community of Ghurkha family members, many of whom have loved ones in Nepal. I would formally like to urge everyone in our CCG to support the Disasters Emergency Committee fund through the easiest and most effective way that we can – by donating money.  Please give what you can – for millions of people, just a few of your donated pounds will mean the difference between life and death.

Donating is easy – just follow this link: http://www.dec.org.uk/

Thank you.



Easter is upon us!


Doesn’t time go fast when you are having fun? Amazingly enough, the last time I put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) for my blog was just after Christmas, and now all of a sudden we’re facing Easter.

I love Easter because to me it really is the start of Spring – green shoots appearing in the hedgerows, and more importantly I can eat my Easter egg with a clear conscience, having abstained from chocolate for the last forty days.

Easter also means a four day break from the normal health services we expect, so as well as thinking about how we’re going to spend our extended leisure time, we also need to think about planning ahead for our health care needs – and for those who may be visiting or for whom we’re looking after.

There are a considerable number of options available to support people if they need medical treatment over the bank holiday. If you take routine medication, have a check to make sure that you have enough to keep you going over the four day period, so that there’s no likelihood of you running out.

So, what routes are open for you to access health care?

For minor health problems, it may be possible to seek advice and treatment from your local pharmacy as many of them are open over the holidays. Sprains, dislocations, minor cuts and burns can be treated at the minor injury units opened in Wiltshire, as well as at the walk-in centre in Salisbury.

We want to ensure that you have access to the help that you need, so if you’re not sure where to go for your health problem, then telephone the NHS 111 service – they will be able to assist you about where to go for advice or treatment nearest to where you live. Remember that if you need urgent medical assistance, call 999 straight away.

Let’s keep the pressures away from hospital A&E departments this Easter period, and use all the other options available to us instead.

For a list of pharmacies open over the Easter Bank holiday, and for the locations and opening times of Minor Injury Units visit www.wiltshireccg.nhs.uk and for information on the walk-in centre in Salisbury visit www.salisburywalkincentre.co.uk

Wishing everyone a very happy, healthy Easter!


Happy New Year to one and all

Steve-Rowlands-2014_WEBAnd what an interesting one we have to look forward to; with a forthcoming election and the NHS already being used as a political football.

As we will all be aware, the NHS has seen unprecedented levels of activity with Accident and Emergency departments across the country working beyond their capacity, ambulance services stretched beyond belief and primary care creaking at the front door.

And why is this happening? Well…

Between Christmas and the New Year, I took the family to a local cinema and followed it up with a pizza. As I was getting stuck into my Firenzi, I was interrupted by the noise of a siren and blue flashing lights pulling up at the front door of the restaurant.

A paramedic jumped out the ambulance, rushed into the restaurant and was directed over to a lady sitting at a table behind us eating her meal and who seemed to be perfectly happy. She was escorted into the back of the ambulance and 30 minutes later came back in to finish off her meal eventually leaving the building laughing and joking with her partner.

I was astonished at this. Not only would this have incurred a cost of at least £276, it tied up two highly-skilled professionals for probably the best part of an hour, during one of the busiest times of the year.

My kids could not believe what they had just witnessed and were even more astounded when we got home that night and put the TV on to be greeted with a news report on how stretched the ambulance service in the South West is and how they were not managing to respond to urgent calls.

Was this event a symptom of why the whole system is in overload?

I suspect the answer is yes, but no, but…

On chatting to colleagues in our three District General Hospitals there have clearly been a lot of very sick elderly people seen and admitted over the last three weeks. However the A&E departments were also overloaded by people who could and should have been treated elsewhere.

If, as a nation, we want to maintain an NHS that is free at the point of delivery, we have to treat it with the respect that it deserves and not waste people’s valuable time and expertise.

I wonder if this particular lady would have been as eager to call for an ambulance if she subsequently received a bill for £276…

Steve-Rowlands-2014_WEBDecember – The news themes they aren’t a changing

As it is now December the ‘Mo’ has gone leaving a pleasantly bald top lip. I had some interesting comments regarding the appendage while it was with me, some of which achieved the intended purpose of highlighting men’s health. Perhaps the most damaging was from a member of staff who, in the last week of November, stopped me, stared at me and said: “I bet you can’t wait for December!”

Interesting health issues coming out in the news.

The Secretary of State turning up at an A&E department with an unwell child on a Sunday afternoon, and somehow attempting to defend his corner, despite previously encouraging the public that doing just that was not the appropriate use of A&E facilities.

NICE telling us that we need to carry out more bariatric surgery, as we are all about to become diabetic because we are too fat.

Professor Roger Williams is telling us that we all need liver scans because we drink too much alcohol and we are too fat, and as mentioned in my last blog, the NHS is going to be bankrupt because we are too fat.

There seems to be a bit of a theme here… ‘We are too fat’.

Dieting alone cannot possibly work because if it did none of us would be overweight and there would only be one diet book in print instead of the thousands currently present in any bookshop you walk into. There is no doubt that people on strict diets lose weight but it is also clear that there is a rebound weight increase when they stop, and this type of ‘Yo-Yo’ weight management is detrimental to overall health. The other problem with dieting is that you are constantly thinking about food and, inevitably, constantly hungry, which makes success in sustaining your diet nigh on impossible.

Personally, I have the appetite of a horse and find I can only maintain a reasonable weight by following Michael Mosley’s 5:2 diet. I have been doing so since September 2012 and find it easy to maintain. Happily, I can report that my weight is now stable after an initial loss of over a stone.

However the real solution to any weight problem is lifestyle: eating smaller portions, not grazing between meals and taking appropriate exercise.

To me, as a GP, it’s very clear. If you are too fat you need to lose weight; the state does not need to lose weight for you.

Another item in the news this week: It is safer for healthy women to have babies in a midwife led unit or at home according to a NICE report.

Low risk Mums to be ie those with straightforward pregnancies, and (interestingly) those who have a BMI of less than 30, are better off in maternity led units.

Another good reason to keep that weight down.



Friday the 14th November was World Diabetes Day, which was set up by Diabetes UK to encourage everyone across the world to unite and take action to tackle diabetes.

I have a personal interest in diabetes, having a strong family history of it.

Diabetes is a common lifelong health condition, where the amount of glucose in your blood is too high because the body cannot use it properly. There are two main types of diabetes – Type 1 and Type 2.

Type 1 diabetes is a risk factor that you can’t do anything about (after all, you can’t chose your genetic mum and dad!), however there are plenty things that we can do to prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough insulin to function properly, or if the body’s cells don’t react to insulin. This is known as insulin resistance.

Type 2 diabetes is far more common than Type 1, which occurs when the body doesn’t produce any insulin at all. In the UK, about 90% of all adults with diabetes have Type 2.

So what can we all do to stop ourselves becoming a diabetic statistic?

It is really, really simple: we exercise, we control our weight, we don’t drink too much alcohol and we eat the right foods.

So why is it that we are seeing a rise in the incidence of diabetes? (It is predicted that there will 4.6 million diabetics in the UK by 2030.)

The answer is clearly much more complicated than I have told you. But is it? Or are we just not listening to the messages that we are being given? Personally, I think it is the latter.

The easy option is to carry on as we are and to face the future by burying our heads in the sand in the hope that it will never happen. Sadly, it will happen to many of us unless we do something now.

The main risk factor for Type 2 diabetes is being overweight and this is where we all need to take personal responsibility.

Interestingly there was a report on the radio this morning (20 November), and in the news, stating that obesity is currently costing this country £47 billion a year: a staggering amount of money.

When the Five Year Forward View was announced in October this year, the chief executive of the NHS, Simon Stevens, told us that, if we carry on as we are, by 2021 NHS funding faces a shortfall of £30 billion.

So, to me it’s a no brainer: we all need to control our weight. Not only will we be healthier but we’ll be wealthier as well.

I’m off for a game of tennis.


The Tower of London

Steve-Rowlands-2014_WEBI had a fascinating morning at the Tower of London recently.

Along with thousands of others I was overawed by the 888,246 ceramic poppies that are being planted, each one representing a British and Colonial death during World War I, which started 100 years ago.

It certainly made one reflect on the horrific waste of human life and provided a chance to ‘never forget’ those who perished.

As we walked away from the Tower, my wife and I reflected on the numbers involved and then reminded ourselves of the vast numbers that died some four years after the start of the war from the flu pandemic of 1918/19.

The global mortality rate is not exactly known but it is estimated that 10-20% of those infected died and about 30 % of the worlds population were infected, meaning between 3-6% of the entire worlds population died, some 50 to 100 million people.

This huge death toll was caused by an extremely high infection rate and the severity of the symptoms. The close living conditions and massive troop movements of World War 1 probably increased the transmission and mutation of the virus. It has been suggested that soldiers’ immune systems were weakened by malnutrition as well as the stresses of combat and chemical attacks, increasing their susceptibility to infection.

Nowadays we are fortunate that our living conditions have improved and we have better nutrition and supportive treatment for any of those succumbing to flu.

We also have the flu vaccine that is available free of charge to over 65s, pregnant women, children and adults with underlying health conditions. A nasal spray is available for children aged two to 17 years old and at risk of flu plus all children aged two, three or four years old.

The vaccine is developed by the World Health Organisation and is dependant on the predicted type of flu virus that will affect us each year. And it works.

I would implore any one entitled to a free flu jab to make sure that you go and get it. If you are concerned you might be at risk of flu, but do not fall into one of the qualifying categories, you can, for a small fee be vaccinated at many of our local pharmacies by qualified staff. You can even have the vaccination after you have done your weekly shop at several of our large local supermarkets. It really is that easy.

We can’t change history but perhaps we can all play our part in ensuring that flu never has the devastating effect that it once had.

Sorry no time to write more at present, going to have my flu jab – and no I’m not over 65!

Video of Tower of London poppies from above 





Steve-Rowlands-2014_WEBOver the last eight years or so, at this time of the year, I have used my time off over half term as a chance to get a sneaky start to Movember, in an attempt to get a head start on my colleagues in the moustache growing department.

Movember is a an annual event that started in Adelaide in 1999 in order to raise awareness of men’s health issues, and involves all participants growing a moustache in November. (Hence me starting in October was a definite Unfair Advantage!)

But how can growing a moustache help men’s health?

In short it is an awareness that helps to educate and empower men to take responsibility for their own health.

As a GP it seems iniquitous that women have screening programmes that are hugely beneficial and yet there was nothing in place for screening men’s health.

Movember started with a conversation between friends and it’s a conversation that remains integral to how the Movember Foundation is changing the face of men’s health.

Today, it is just many more conversations. When you count the online and in-person chat that takes place each Movember, it’s literally billions of conversations. These conversations transcend a casual discussion about moustache growth into serious conversations about men’s health.

Does it work?

It has been shown that the Movember campaign is having a positive impact on getting men engaged and thinking about their health and taking preventative action.

  • 99% of participants talked to someone about their health
  • 75% became more aware of the health issues they face
  • 62% had seen or were intending to see a medical professional to get their key personal data checked (blood pressure, cholesterol, waistline, weight)
  • 50% told someone they should take action to improve their health
  • 75% said they were more likely to tell someone they knew to seek professional health if they thought it was needed
  • 1.7 billion conversations were had

So not only should we think about testicular and prostate cancer, which are peculiar to men, but we should all be thinking about lifestyle choices ie diet, smoking, drinking and exercise, all of which can have an impact on all of our long term health issues.

Those of you that have heard me talk will know how I go banging on about personal responsibility and the need for every one of us take control of our health where at all possible

So if anyone you know is starting to sprout hairs around their top lip it will hopefully be with an ulterior motive of not only becoming more aware of their own health but also making you aware of yours and is to be applauded.

As Chairman of this Health organisation, I will be encouraging those of us that can to join in and support Movember and you never know I may yet again try and gain a small advantage next week.