Headlines: November 22nd, 2005

Four out of ten people believe those who do not look after their health should be penalised, according to a report today that also shows a third of people want to see charges for medical treatment for patients who smoke, drink or are overweight and ten per cent backing a hard-line approach that would refuse treatment in some cases. The results of the study – from private medical insurers BUPA – will be debated later today by professionals from a range of health care sectors. The study reveals that 44 percent of Britons feel the Government should shoulder the majority of the responsibility for looking after their health. Four in 10 people also want even more health advice from the Government and there is widespread approval for the recent ban on junk food advertising. The study shows 41 percent of respondents believed this was a very responsible action and almost a third saw it as ‘necessary because no one else will do it.’Similarly the survey results show 80 per cent of people believe the Government should play a greater part in the regulation of food manufacturers and 73 percent believe there should be a crackdown on the media and advertisers to ensure they portray only healthy lifestyles. Three quarters of people would like to see annual health screenings for all adults and almost half believe there should be higher taxes on cigarettes and alcohol. Another sign of the tougher approach to health issues is that 62 per cent of respondents believe employers should monitor sickness absence more effectively and in some cases, even refuse to pay sick leave.

At the same time, two thirds of people would like to see employers given more incentives by the Government, to offer health benefits. Dr Andrew Vallance-Owen, BUPA Group Medical Director said he was surprised that people have took such a hard-line view on self-inflicted illnesses and thought this might show a change in public mood. The results of the study will be discussed at today’s BUPA Health Debate, on the topic ‘Whose Health Is It Anyway – What balance of responsibility for people’s health lies with the Government, the individual and the employer?’