Patients will be asked about diet, exercise, smoking and alcohol
GPs should use consultations with patients to ask them about diet, exercise, alcohol and smoking, the Government has been told.
The recommendation was made by the Future Forum, a body of advisers including leading clinicians established by the Government to advise it on health policy.
The Forum's report on public health suggests that the NHS should "make every contact count" - using every contact with an individual to encourage them to improve their mental and physical health. It recommends that the Health Secretary includes this responsibility in the legally-binding NHS Constitution.
The Government has accepted the recommendation and plans to consult on it.
It has been estimated that the NHS could make huge savings by preventing ill-health. For example, around 10% of the NHS budget is spent on diabetes and associated complications yet the risk of developing type 2 diabetes could be reduced by up to 80% if individuals adopted a healthier lifestyle.
Insurer Aviva UK Health has previously found that GPs are reluctant to discuss lifestyle choices with patients. Its survey of family doctors conducted in 2010 found that 47% avoided raising the issue of obesity with patients. Almost one in five (19%) were reluctant to discuss alcohol misuse while 13% refrained from bringing up the topic of smoking.
Today's Future Forum highlights that each day, GPs and practice nurses see over 800,000 people while dentists see over 250,000 NHS patients. There are 31,000 NHS sight tests, while approximately 1.6 million people visit a pharmacy.