12:08am Saturday 22nd December 2012
© Press Association 2013
The Prince of Wales has called for a health service that recognises "the core human elements of mind, body and spirit" as well as treating disease.
Charles said health professionals should develop a "healing empathy" to "listen and honour what is being said and not said by patients" so they can find their own way towards better health.
Writing in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, he set out a vision of healthcare that includes "the physical and social environment, education, agriculture and architecture".
The Prince emphasised that he did not want to confront accepted medical wisdom, but suggested reasons for encouraging a wider perspective on healthcare. He said symptoms "may often be a metaphor for underlying disease and unhappiness", and called for a scientific and therapeutic approach that "understands, values and uses patient perspective and belief rather than seeking to exclude them".
Charles drew on the work of several of his charities in Burnley, where inequalities have lowered life expectancy to one of the worst levels in the country, according to the article.
The Prince argued that improvements to the built and natural environment, the arts, education and business would lead to improvements "not only in health, but also in the overall cost-efficiency and effectiveness of local services".
He concluded by urging clinicians to emphasise "the value of caring, continuing relationships and for society to adopt a more holistic approach to health and disease that maximises the potential of the physical and social environment so that healing and better health can thrive".
Dr Kamran Abbasi, the journal's editor, said: "The Prince of Wales is a prominent and influential voice. When he sets out his vision for health, something he clearly thinks deeply about, speaking directly to medical professionals is the best way of allowing a constructive debate to flourish. This is an important article and The Prince's vision for health is engaging."
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "The wider determinants of health - such as housing and environment - are very important to our wellbeing. That is why, from next April, we are putting local councils in charge of improving the public's health. They will have the power and the budget to tackle the causes of poor health in their areas. This should help to reduce health inequalities and mean that everyone has the same opportunity to lead a healthy life.
"Ensuring that patients get the best possible care is a priority. We have been clear that quality of care needs to be valued as highly as the quality of treatment. Nursing leaders recently launched a new drive to ensure values such as compassion and courage are at the heart of the NHS and the public health and care sectors."
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