Pupils need lessons on using NHS, say medics

Better education will cause less of a burden on the NHS. Picture: Rex
Better education will cause less of a burden on the NHS. Picture: Rex
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CHILDREN in Scottish schools should be taught about the ­appropriate use of medical services and how to look after their health as the NHS faces rising demand, a conference will be told.

With growing concern about overstretched A&E units and GPs struggling to cope with their workload, the British Medical Association’s meeting in Harrogate will hear calls for lessons on which NHS services should be used when to be ­included in the curriculum.

Dr Andrew Thomson, a GP in Tayside, said it was not only about controlling demand for care, but making sure people accessed services when they needed to.

He said this kind of learning should start in the primary years until children leave school, providing information appropriate to their age.

The BMA meeting, which starts on 23 June, will discuss the motion calling on governments “to develop a requirement for all schools to introduce a new element to curricula which educates young people across the UK in the appropriate, safe and effective use of health services”.

It goes on to say these lessons should also raise awareness “about the responsibility for self-management of health when required”.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Thomson said:“It is not about restricting access to healthcare or saying you shouldn’t be accessing healthcare.

“It’s about giving people the right tools so they can make sensible decisions about how to manage their care, both in terms of health information but also nutritional information. We know there is rising obesity in society and the consequences of heart disease and diabetes. That adds an extra burden on the health system and other systems.

“This is about enabling future generations to be able to manage their health.”

Thomson, a member of the BMA’s board of science, said children should be taught when to use NHS services.

He added: “So, what sort of things would it be appropriate to call an ambulance for, what sort of things would it be appropriate to see your GP for and actually making sure they’re aware that they can get healthcare advice online from NHS Inform, or NHS 24, or their pharmacist

“In the future to maintain a strong health service for all in Scotland we will need to make sure that each part of the service is used as appropriately as we can.”

Thomson said they did not want to put people off using services where they were already being used responsibly.

“We just want people to use it when they actually need our help, whereas there are things that can be dealt with simply either by some over-the-counter medication or a visit to the pharmacist, which might be able to sort it out much more quickly and efficiently for you.”

A spokesman for the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) said: “Health and wellbeing is a key theme of Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence, so learning and teaching on relevant issues is embedded across a wide range of curricular ­areas.

“Teachers are accustomed to exercising their professional judgment in providing pupils with relevant information from a range of appropriate sources, supporting young people in making informed choices on issues such as their health.”