On June 17th, The College of Medicine’s Chair, Dr Michael Dixon, took to the stage at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in central London. Moments earlier, attendees had been played a rallying video message by our patron, HRH The Prince of Wales. Here, we’re delighted to publish Dr Dixon’s opening address in full:
“Needless to say, The Prince of Wales is a slightly difficult act to follow! Especially as someone who has championed integrative and personalised care for over forty years. But I also believe that this conference heralds the beginning of ‘post-modern medicine’.
I am confident that this heady mixture of world class speakers combined with our first chance to meet face to face as champions of integration after two years of Covid will enable us to bring about a new era and a new hope in medicine.
That is because the need for integrative and personalised medicine has now become horribly urgent. Our current medicine is failing spectacularly. Chronic disease is ever increasing – especially in areas such as obesity and mental health. Life expectancy has plateaued. Health systems are becoming unaffordable and unable to recruit sufficient clinicians. Today the misery on our streets and among our clinicians is all too evident.
Covid has made things immeasurably worse especially for our young people. What is our current medicine doing, for instance, for those 40% of 11-year-olds in London who are obese or those 25% of 14-16-year-old girls in the UK, who are self-harming?
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And what about all those opportunities missed? Those 75% of patients with coronary artery disease or the 25% of patients with cancer, who need never have fallen ill in the first place?
It feels every bit as bad at the frontline. Last Monday, as a family doctor, I met a four-year-old who was terrorising his family and who had waited over six months without yet getting any help.
A 15-year-old brilliant but troubled school girl still waiting for a call from our child and adolescent mental health service, which nationally turns down 75% of our GP referrals. The 23-year-old man contemplating suicide and saying nobody cared. The list of our failures seems endless.
So, change we must. First, by restoring a service that provides compassion and continuity of care. A service that allows time for our clinicians to look after their patients as they would like in a way that is personal and integrated. A medicine that strengthens our immune systems and improves our resilience and our capacity to self-heal. That is a medicine that concentrates on strengthening our natural healing processes as a first line of defence and only confronts those same processes with the full blast of modern technology, when it becomes absolutely necessary.
In support of this new model, today we are launching our campaign “Beyond Pills”. This will enable and empower our clinicians to look at other possibilities before having to reach for the traditional prescription pad. As you will see in the session later this morning, this covers a number of themes such as overmedicalisation and the dangers of polypharmacy but also specific issues such as antibiotic resistance and the spiralling increase in deaths due to opiates. Deprescribing or perhaps we should call it re-prescribing should now become a subject that is taught in future at medical school.
And then of course there is the whole issue of how we prevent people becoming ill in the first place. Rangan Chatterjee and a number of our speakers will explain how we can enable our patients and our communities to become more active producers of their own health. Throughout the next three days, we will hear about the influence of lifestyle, diet and other factors and, most crucially, how we can enable and motivate a larger number of people to make those changes necessary to improve their health and the health of those around them.
So today, consider yourselves to be the guardians of this new order. Of a tomorrow that restores the passion and vocation of our clinicians. A tomorrow that emancipates individuals and communities to become healthier. A tomorrow that allows clinicians and patients to start believing in themselves again.
This new order will require a new science. One that maintains the benefits of population-based evidence but also concentrates more on the personal – our own individual genomes, our biomes, our own healing abilities and which respects the individuality of our beliefs, our hopes and our challenges.
We will need to create a tomorrow where no longer science tells the clinician, who tells the patient. It will be a tomorrow that is owned by our patients and communities as active participants, advised by our clinicians and informed by a science that values the psychosocial every bit as much as the biomedical. That is the tomorrow that we must create here at this conference.
Never so apt were the words of Shakespeare:- “There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat. And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures”.
So, I repeat again – “Now is the time”. Let us go down in history as having created a new era of integrative and personalised medicine at this conference. The health of our patients depends upon it. The very sustainability of our health service is at stake. Collectively we must lead the charge. So may you all thrive in your work and efforts to achieve this . As brothers and sisters, let’s make it happen. Together.”