Dr David Crichton: ‘Our Future Health will help prevent disease’
“Currently, it feels like we firefight in medicine,” says Dr David Crichton, Chief Medical Officer for NHS South Yorkshire. “We respond and react to things that present – with less focus on stopping the fire from igniting in the first place.”
David speaks from experience. As a practising GP who’s worked in the NHS for three decades, he knows exactly what life is like on the frontline of our healthcare system. “When you’re working as a GP, most days you have your head down just trying to deal with the patient in front of you,” he says. “They’re already unwell. We need to look deeper at why people are getting ill in the first place.”
That’s why David was pleased to receive a letter inviting him to join Our Future Health last month. He booked an appointment at a mobile clinic in a nearby supermarket car park, and went along during a lunch break.
“When you join, there’s a questionnaire and consent form to complete,” explains David. “Then you attend a physical appointment where they measure your height, weight, blood pressure, do a finger-prick test for cholesterol and take a blood test that is sent off for further analysis. It’s very quick and convenient.
“Programmes like this can help us be more proactive and preventative,” he says. “Our Future Health has huge potential.”
Helping people from all walks of life
For David, whose GP surgery is located in Doncaster, it’s important that Our Future Health is building a volunteer group that is reflective of the UK population. That means we are committed to including people from a range of communities – including different economic backgrounds.
“We have lots of ill health at our practice,” says David. “Our Future Health highlights the fact that, currently, too many people spend years in ill health – that’s very much the picture we see locally.”
Doncaster is in a deprived area of the UK. According to the NHS’s national formula to target health inequality, 37% of South Yorkshire’s population live in the 20% most deprived areas in the UK.
“There’s a correlation between deprivation and diseases such as cancer, respiratory, cardiovascular, stroke and dementia. Those are the conditions that lead to people dying in South Yorkshire and make up the gap in health inequalities in the area.”
That’s why David is encouraging South Yorkshire’s residents to take part in Our Future Health. By sharing their health information with our programme, volunteers will know that future healthcare discoveries will help everyone – including themselves and their families.
“By joining Our Future Health, you can be part of solutions, innovations and new technologies,” he explains.
The importance of representation
David says it’s not just people from all economic backgrounds that should step forward to take part. “It’s crucial the programme gets as broad and diverse range of individuals involved as possible – participants of different age, sex, race and disability. It’s only going to be successful if there’s that richness of data. The relationship between things such as people’s genes, where they’re born, social and environmental factors all contribute to our wellbeing.
“Once we start looking at all those factors together, you can begin to understand better.
“There’s no point in just choosing a million people like myself, because that isn’t going to result in answers for the population we’re serving,” he adds. “By joining Our Future Health, you can be part of future healthcare that benefits all of us.”
“I’ve been a doctor for 29 years now, and medicine has changed greatly in my time,” says David. “We think we know a lot about illness and medicine now, we provide a huge range of services and fantastic treatments and people have survived because of those advancements. But if we fast-forward 50 or 100 years, I believe we’ll look back and realise that where we’re at now is probably only the tip of the iceberg in medicine.
“Our Future Health will hopefully help us to push the boundaries of what medical science can offer.