Dr John Chisholm, a principal architect of the 2004 GMS contract, said better self-care education could cut GP consultations for minor ailments. Currently 57m such consultations take place each year, costing the NHS an estimated £2bn.
Dr Chisholm called for changes to the curriculum in response to a government review of personal, social, health and economics education.
Improved education about health behaviours could help cut NHS costs for long-term conditions, he said.
‘There is clear evidence of the cost-effectiveness of an evidence-based programme of health education in schools,’ he said.
However, a major cultural shift would be needed to change behaviour, he warned.
‘Both health education in schools and that component of health education relating to self-care require consistent information, education, encouragement and support and also cultural change involving teachers, students, parents and healthcare professionals,’ he said.
‘Consistency in information and education must be delivered at a national and local level.’
Dr Chisholm submitted a response to the review on behalf of the Self Care Forum, other members of which include NHS Alliance chairman Dr Michael Dixon and RCGP revalidation lead Professor Mike Pringle.
Dr Chisholm also argued that the national curriculum should cover the relative risks of behaviours and improving health through lifestyle education.
He said young people should become a reliable source of health information for their families and peers.