Why prevention really is better than the cure – Dr Toby Donati

Dr Toby Donati is Bluecrest Wellness’ Chief Medical Officer. It’s his role to oversee clinical issues, making sure we’re using the best tests, and delivering results in the best way. We caught up with him to ask him all about his job(s) – and why he’s so passionate about preventative health in general, and Bluecrest Wellness in particular.

Hi Dr Donati! What sort of Dr are you?

I’m a GP. I do several clinics a week at a practice in North London.

What made you want to work for Bluecrest on top of being a GP?

I love seeing patients day-to-day, but I also wanted to be able to step up and out from that frontline and take more of a helicopter view of health.

When people get to you in a consulting room they’re already presenting as ill or injured. But what happens if you could get to them BEFORE that point?

As a doctor, I spend a lot of my time talking to the patients I see not just about immediate treatment but about the changes they can make to their lifestyle to stay well – and prevent further problems down the line. It’s an integral part of what I do, and what so many GPs are doing up and down the country.

Being able to help more people do that on a wider scale is something I’m absolutely passionate about.

Why is preventative health so important?

We all know that looking after our bodies properly can save an awful lot of future pain and discomfort – for instance looking after our heart by quitting smoking, eating well and moving more. Long term, it can also save the NHS an awful lot of money not having to deal with what are largely preventable illnesses.

Right now, the NHS is struggling. It’s more of a National Disease Service than a National Health Service – and it is there to catch people when they fall ill. It does amazing things. But it simply does not have the resources to divert from treatment to prevention… And it’s in that prevention space that providers like Bluecrest Wellness – and businesses – can step in to do more.

Why should people get a health assessment if they’re not ill?

Well we all know a lot of the things we SHOULD be doing for ourselves – like eating less sugar for example. But if we’re feeling okay it’s really easy to just… carry on as we are. But what if you found out that your glucose levels weren’t right, and that you were actually at risk of developing diabetes? Most people would start to think more seriously about making changes.

Understanding what’s going on in your body clearly helps you make different choices – and Bluecrest Wellness helps thousands of people do that every year.

Don’t the NHS offer a health assessment?

They do when you reach 40 – but it’s not always delivered or taken up consistently across the country. And by the time you’re 40 many people have developed lifestyle habits which can be difficult to change, If you have some unhealthy lifestyle activities you may already have done quite a bit of damage that’s going to be hard to reverse. Imagine if you got an inside look at yourself in your 20s or 30s – what you could do with that insight

I think it’s incredibly important to put people in charge of their own health, on their own timetable. Your GP is not in charge of your health, YOU are. As GPs we’re here to support you to become the healthiest ‘you’ possible. We’re not here to tell you what to do, or to prevent you learning more about your current state of health.

How does Bluecrest Wellness work with the NHS?

The NHS can’t do everything – and it shouldn’t have to. It can’t be giving every 20-something year old a cholesterol test every year, there has to be a risk/cost calculation and a cut-off point somewhere.

I think what Bluecrest Wellness does is complementary to the NHS. Bluecrest Wellness isn’t treating people, it’s giving them an overview picture of their health. That information can help them make changes that mean they use the NHS less – or give them a head start on what to talk to their GP about.

The most common outcome is for people who’ve had a Bluecrest Wellness health assessment to talk through the results and what measures they can take to improve their health with our specialist GP line. If we’ve found something that needs further attention, we’ll advise people to talk to their GP, and they will be arriving equipped with accurate test readings that help them get moving in the system.

In my NHS practise, for example, I’d be very happy to see someone with their Bluecrest Wellness results report saying look, my cholesterol is X, my blood pressure is Y, my weight is Z. I can then make a detailed evaluation of their cardiovascular risks and decide if they might benefit from cholesterol reducing medication. This can result in patients getting what they  need faster, without waiting a long time for a GP appointment, or needing to make multiple visits to their NHS GP.

Why is preventative health so important for businesses?

Businesses are only ever as healthy as the people working for them. If you care about your workers, of course you care about their health – and investing in keeping people well just makes sense. A workforce that is actively engaged in their own health and one step ahead of it is going to be a better, fitter and more productive workforce.

It’s also fair to stay that preventing ill-health is almost always going to be cheaper than treating it…

What sort of things are being spotted?

In our business reports one of the many things that shows up regularly are musculoskeletal issues. That’s one of the biggest causes of sickness absence in the UK – and it’s something businesses can take action on. That might be as simple as introducing workstation assessments, improving manual handling training or encouraging active travel to and from work.

Why should people book a Bluecrest Wellness health assessment?

If your business has organised for you to have a Bluecrest Wellness health assessment, you should definitely take them on the offer. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s convenient – and it could be the best thing you do for your body and your peace of mind this year.