Having spent nearly half a century in medical practice, I have seen considerable changes in patient care. Substantial gains have been achieved as previously untreatable illnesses have become treatable, but also potential reverses in the way that compassion and service have taken a backseat to process and efficiency in medicine.
This is not a trivial issue. We now appreciate just how closely the mind and body are aligned, and how compassion in clinical practice can save time, money and lives in an entirely objective and measurable way. We now have the evidence for compassionate caring just as we are on the threshold of losing it.
Although seldom discussed, we just don’t have the resources for medicine to continue on its current path. So many of the illnesses we now suffer – from diabetes through to back pain and depression – are potentially preventable. In the years ahead, our health will increasingly depend on the way we choose to live our lives and the society in which we live. Maintaining our good health will be helped by friends and colleagues who themselves have adopted healthy lifestyles.
Conventional medicine, configured to ensure that the needs of the patient are always central, will continue to play a pivotal role when illness occurs and will increasingly be supplemented by self-care particularly for long-term conditions. Individuals who are able and willing to contribute to their own care have better outcomes than those who passively accept treatment. The feeling of well-being is enhanced when appropriate therapy is accompanied by patient involvement in their own care.
We all want to improve both health and healthcare: not through top down reorganisation, but organically, one project, one student, one patient, one new idea at a time. Our aims are ambitious yet realistic. They will, however, be achieved only when we are all fully committed to their implementation.
The College of Medicine is a remarkable organisation. Its members include people who hold senior positions in the medical world and who are and will be patients. It also includes those who have a detailed understanding of how communities work, innovators who are creating new models of care, scientists working to cure major diseases and, above all, patients who know only too well the strengths and weaknesses of current practice and whose views are as valuable as those of the policy makers and healthcare providers.
I hope you will join the College of Medicine, because we can’t do any of this without you. Need more persuading? – read on, to discover who we are, what we’ve already achieved, what we think good health and healthcare looks like and what we want to do in the future.