What do you think are the biggest health concerns affecting the nation?
Obesity and mental health. A huge proportion of both adults and children are overweight or obese, an issue which is stirring up all sorts of health problems for these individuals, and the Health Service in the future. There is no sign of matters improving either. Psychological distress is also very commonplace with depression and anxiety at an all-time high, and again increasing. People seem to find it harder to talk to other people about their problems and share them. We seem to be a more densely populated country with people paradoxically more isolated and marginalised than ever.
What are the benefits of people taking responsibility for their personal health?
Ultimately, never needing the attentions of a doctor, and preventing disease (and the misery that comes with it) in the first place.
What are the most important components to a healthy lifestyle?
It’s best achieved by normalising weight, taking regular exercise, eating healthy food and finding happiness – then sharing it with the people that you love.
What do you think is the best way to live as long and as healthy as possible?
I think if you keep smiling and stay positive at all times, even in the face of adversity, you can enjoy a longer and happier life.
Do you have a health mantra?
For me, it’s enjoying exercise and work, but I think as long as you do what you love, and provided it does no harm, carry on!
What are your thoughts on anti-ageing procedures like botox or even invasive surgery?
I think if someone is very unhappy about a certain particular aspect of their body, cosmetic surgery whether invasive or not can boost self-esteem and confidence incredibly. The trick is to just make sure firstly that it is safe, and also that it isn’t a psychological solution you need instead of a physical one.
What is the secret to eternal youth?
I always say – work hard and play hard, you can chill when you’re dead! We shouldn’t worry about getting older, after all it’s a privilege denied to many.
What do you most enjoy about being a TV doctor?
I love the fact that every day is different. As Forest Gump famously said: “You never know what you’re gonna get”. I meet lots of interesting people from many different walks of life, and I learn something worthy of passing on to others every single day.
You’ve been in the job since 1989 – that’s a long time! What keeps you going?
I think just loving what I do. We certainly seem to make a difference in our TV programme with people regularly writing in saying that the medical information they got helped them to spot something important such as the first signs of meningitis in their baby or finding a breast lump. We’ve even had letters from people who say they’ve successfully resuscitated their baby and prevented a cot death by following procedures we’ve demonstrated on the programme.
And a lot of early starts! Are you naturally a morning person?
I never used to be a morning person. I used to prefer sitting up late at night burning the candle right into the small hours. Over the last few years however I’ve got used to early starts and I love that smug feeling of knowing that you’ve half completed your day when everybody else is still travelling in to work.
What’s been your most memorable experience in your TV career?
There have been many memorable experiences, from meeting big stars off the silver screen, to those life-changing meetings with people who are completely unique. I think a highlight for me was meeting a 16-year-old boy called Yibi, who was the longest living child to have survived having been born HIV positive but whose philosophical outlook on his limited life span was awesome. I also loved a trip to visit Santa in the Arctic Circle with the Northern Lights charity that takes groups of children with life-limiting illness on that special trip – the look on their faces as they were pulled on sledges by huskies! And then going on to meet the ‘real Santa’…priceless.
With so many health campaigns you’ve been involved in over the years – what’s been the one that’s connected with you the most?
I think becoming a patron for the Meningitis Research Foundation. During my medical career, I saw two patients with very nasty cases of meningitis and luckily made the correct diagnosis and both of them survived. However, the fight goes on to raise awareness of the early symptoms and to find effective vaccines that protect against the remaining causative bacteria that currently still wreak havoc.
You must find it challenging to organise your time with so much going on?
I have had to get more organised and I rely very heavily on my PA, friends and family. I always feel a bit frustrated by people who say “I haven’t got time to do this, or that”. You can always find time if it’s important enough, you just have to find the enthusiasm.
You like to get involved in lots of other projects when you’re not busy working – which has been your favourite experience?
Dancing on Ice was amazing – one of the great last old-fashioned productions. From scratch I learned to skate with a professional partner, and whilst still being rubbish after six weeks, still managed to skate in front of an audience of 11 million without making a total idiot of myself! I also thoroughly enjoyed writing my last book, A Day in Your Life, which is about everything your body does, without you even knowing about it, within a 24-hour period. It taught me a huge amount that I didn’t know, and it seems that everybody, whatever age they are, loves it.
Have you got any exciting plans in the pipeline for the coming year?
The paperback version of A Day in Your Life comes out in February and I’ll be doing some publicity for that. I’d also love to have my own medical TV show, which would satisfy that huge appetite amongst the TV viewers for all things medical, including the controversial, the humorous, the informative and the freaky!