21 November 2016

Realistic Messages are Important for Patients to be Healthier, Says New RCGP Chair

Clarifying comments reported in the media this weekend, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said:

"Five a Day is an excellent initiative; we want our patients to be healthier, and we want them to eat far more fruit and veg. We should certainly be aiming for this - and more - but the fact is that it remains an aspiration for many patients and as GPs we sometimes need to tailor our advice to the patient in front of us, based on their individual circumstances.

"It's not easy - or affordable - for many patients to eat five items of fruit or veg a day, and when they are faced with the temptation of cheaper unhealthy snacks, it's understandable that they choose them. However, there are lots of great ways to buy and cook fresh food more cheaply which we all need to share widely.

"We are absolutely not advocating unhealthy diets or for our patients to lead unhealthy lifestyles, but the message needs to be realistic for the patient in front of us.

"We need to make eating healthier easier and more affordable - and as a society we need to do more to encourage our patients to lead more active lifestyles.

"Ultimately we also want and need people to stop smoking. Smoking has terrible effects on our health, the NHS, and society in general.

"But for people who are addicted - and particularly for people who still really like to smoke - the prospect of quitting is not attractive, it's often overwhelming, and for GPs, if quitting is our only message to patients who smoke, we risk alienating them.

"Reducing smoking is a good first step to stopping altogether. It's about getting the messaging to the patient right in the first place - and making them realise that the ultimate goal is achievable even it requires a stepwise rather than radical approach to get there.

"GPs are already doing an excellent job helping patients to stop smoking but it's also important that we have access to good, effective smoking cessation services in the community, which can make a real difference for patients."

Further Information

RCGP Press office: 020 3188 7574/7575/7633
Out of hours: 0203 188 7659


The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 50,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.