Penny Brohn UK

Help change life with cancer. For good

What do we mean by “rethinking medicine”?

In March we were invited by National Voices to join the conversation of Rethinking Medicine, and how medicine can support health and healthcare in England.

In terms of advances in treatment and survival rates of conditions such as cancer, things have never been better, but there’s a well-known quote that has stood the test of time:

“Doctors put drugs of which they know very little into bodies which they know less of for diseases of which they know nothing at all.” Voltaire – 250 years ago

Over 100 years later Sir Willam Osler, known as the father of Modern Medicine, questioned the lack of humanity in medicine and the poor link between science and civilisation. Now fast forward another 100 years to a room in London where an audience of thinkers, practitioners and people with lived experience of being ‘the patient’ are gathered to discuss just that, the seemingly broken down relationship between patients and medical professionals, or the broken link between medicine and healthcare.

Rethinking Medicine is more than just a conversation it’s an initiative challenging the current medical model which as they say: “… is focused on pathology, on clinical states or markers of disease, rather than quality of life or wellbeing.”

We were invited to be a part of these discussions because we believe in treating each person as a whole person. We take an integrated whole person approach to cancer support using evidence-based therapies which work alongside standard medical treatment to achieve the best health and wellbeing.

From the recent NHS Long Term Plan we know steps are being taken to a more person-centred approach, but how can this be rolled out on a grand scale? This is what has worked for us for nearly 40 years. 

Give people tools to help them self-manage

Our Living Well course gives people affected by cancer greater confidence when dealing with medical professionals, but also improves diet, exercise and self-help techniques (such as meditation, relaxation and mindfulness). 45% said the Living Well course had made a difference to the way they accessed medical services; they felt more confident asking questions, making decisions and discussing their care with doctors. All our courses begin with an explanation of what cancer is and how it develops in our bodies. Our wellness package changed the way they access healthcare services by increasing their knowledge and their confidence to talk to healthcare professionals.

Social prescribing before pill prescribing

The aim of social prescribing is to address people’s needs in a holistic way, taking into consideration that health is affected by an individual’s socio-economic background and environment and that sometimes prescribing them with pills isn’t going to solve the problem. Social prescribing was mentioned in the Long Term Plan with an aim to recruit 1,000 link workers trained to talk to people and be able to support them to find suitable activities that are a better alternative to medication.

It’s not an alternative, it’s complementary

Complementary therapies work alongside standard treatment to build resilience and immune function. The therapies and activities we provide at Penny Brohn UK, and many other voluntary services across the country, are evidence-based, safe and effective.

There’s more to health than simply what’s going on in our bodies and there are simple, proven steps that can be taken in our healthcare system to meet the needs of people, we know because we have been doing just that for nearly 40 years. We welcome the work of Rethinking Medicine and look forward to being a part of the conversation, and actions, of this initiative.

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