Preventive Medicine Beats Picking up Pieces When It is Too Late
Doctor Rob Lawson has, almost singlehandedly, begun a revolution in healthcare which puts prevention fairly and squarely before cure. While not all his patients are walking miracles, one man who had terminal cancer might well qualify. Two-and-a-half years ago, the survivor – whose name is protected by doctor-patient confidentiality – and who is a member at Core Health Centre, near Drem, East Lothian , presented to Rob after his consultant oncologist had predicted he had just weeks to live.
After a consultation with Dr Lawson and fuelled by a strong will to survive, he acknowledged the necessary changes to diet and lifestyle and has now recovered to the point where he is believed to be cancer-free.
What makes Core Health unique is its insistence on prevention and survival rather than the customary palliative care.
As clinical director, Dr Lawson is a man for whom the word driven might have been coined – he even ploughed all of his savings into the project. While he worked in nearby Haddington as an NHS GP for more than 30 years, he was always aware that at least 70 per cent of his patients presenting with high blood pressure, heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes could have avoided their conditions by making simple changes to their lifestyle.
Now Core Health is all about preventing premature, avoidable disability – even death – and about nurturing a longer, life and taking control of your health destiny.
At his clinic at the peaceful sanctuary of Prora Farm, Dr Lawson said: “I am a medical man with a passion for healthy living and for facilitating an extended quality of life for anyone. My mission is to help people engage with their health aspirations, thus ensuring a long life.”
Why did he invest all his savings on such a project?
“I have always known that we have a big problem in this country,” Dr Lawson said. “A conservative estimate is that 100 people in the UK die prematurely every day from avoidable diseases. These include obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stress-related disorders, dementia and even iatrogenic disease (drug related deaths) caused by doctors like myself, however well intentioned they may be. These are diseases of the 21st century and are associated with unhealthy lifestyle behaviours which can be altered with just a bit of determination.”
At Core Health, which opened in the Autumn of 2012, patients are asked how they think their health will be in 10 years .
“Most people have never thought about it,” Dr Lawson said. “Nor have doctors thought about helping people take more control over their health.
“The results we can achieve are extraordinary. The difference here is not just in our approach but in our purpose. Being a doctor often means having to treat patients once it is too late. Instead, we are here to support and build health instead of just treating illness. Regardless of age or physical condition, we can help anyone find a healthier, happier life.”
And that is where I come in. Always a poor sleeper, I sampled 90 minutes at Core Health with one of Scotland’s top cognitive hypnotherapists, Tom Lawrence. The treatment he uses is designed to free patients from inhibiting thought patterns which have been accepted by the subconscious in the past and which now restrict current thinking and behaviour in some way.
Despite some initial scepticism, I was quickly impressed by Tom’s line of questioning, his insights and recommendations. He asked me about my self confidence and suggested ways to change a few negative ways of thinking. The first night, I slept like the proverbial log and have, slowly but surely, improved my sleep pattern ever since. I will be going back.
The 30 therapists at the centre examine three fundamental areas of each person’s health: nutrition, activity and previous medical care. They combine traditional and complementary medicine to deliver holistic health solutions. There are on tap physicians, registered dieticians, nutritionists, personal trainers, psychologists, a hypnotherapist-cum-acupuncturist, physiotherapists, a podiatrist as well as Yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi instructors.
Dr Lawson said: “We recognise that sometimes even small changes can be difficult and that they have to be sustained.
NATIONAL SICKNESS SERVICE
“Look,” he added and there was anger in his tone, “Scotland is a country with the lowest healthy life expectancy in Europe and the highest number of fat people. It is a country in which children develop diabetes then go on to have amputations in their twenties. It is a country in which some youngsters will not live to enjoy the healthy lifespan of their parents.
“Yet, politicians still prattle on about our so-called safe, effective, world class health care. Do they never ask themselves why no other country in the world has adopted our system of care?
“In fact, it is a curate’s egg of a service and the bit that matters – helping us when we are ill – is the bit we all value. The NHS should be re-named the NSS – the National Sickness Service.
“Generally, it is fair to say that if something is free it is undervalued or overused or both. My long experience as a servant in the NHS suggests both apply.”
Dr Lawson believes there has been a long-held expectation that the NHS will always cope: “It can’t and it won’t,” he said with emphasis.
“We need our citizens to take a long hard look at themselves and to then decide to avoid the need to use the service by taking responsibility for and managing better their own health.”
Like all pioneers, Dr Lawson is struggling to make potential investors see how crucial Core Health’s approach is to Scotland; to appreciate the disaster facing us.
“We need to eradicate the perception that the answer to all ills lies in a free pill,” he said. “As a matter of urgency, we need to embrace preventive and lifestyle medicine – the one proposed by Hippocrates 2,500 years ago.”
There are other attractions: the clinic plans to buy equipment such as a cancer mole scanner as well as re-open its shop and restaurant as an educational focus for healthy, enjoyable eating.
Dr Lawson said: “If we are innovative in this way, we might just slow the tsunami of 21st century diseases heading our way long enough to clamber up to the safety of higher, healthier ground. Now that really would be an achievement on anyone’s watch.”
Dr Lawson knows that the potential market is huge; that there is a definite shift in momentum towards self-managed health.
He added: “Some 60 per cent of those questioned in the latest Scottish Health Survey have at least three health risk behaviours and 98 per cent have at least one. It is painfully obvious where we are headed as a nation if we fail to take immediate action.”