JUST before Christmas, it was a pleasure to join British Museum chairman Sir Richard Lambert at Salisbury Museum.

He was here to celebrate the fruitful partnership between the two institutions.

Disappointingly, Salisbury Museum was unsuccessful in its latest application for lottery funding. It needs everyone’s support in 2019 and, thanks in part to the British Museum, I am certain there will be plenty of reasons to visit in the year ahead and enjoy both the permanent collection and visiting exhibitions.

Festive news reports were full of coverage of Public Health England’s latest guidance on calorie consumption and the levels of fat and sugar found in everyday processed foods.

The principal reaction has been one of outrage at the mere suggestion of any government-led restriction on the number of calories in meals.

I am not generally a supporter of government laying down the law on matters of personal behaviour but I have always found it surprising that some people are so resistant to the widely available health advice that would allow them to make wise decisions for themselves.

Even thinking back to my own childhood, portion sizes of snacks were far smaller and they were understood to be occasional treats – not staple foods.

The culture of instant and unlimited gratification does neither us nor the NHS any favours.

Concern for the sustainability of the NHS and its ability to keep doing more and more for an ever ageing population has to be married with a sense of personal responsibility – to take reasonable steps to look after our own health and minimise our risk of preventable diseases.

PHE’s timely observations remind me of a recent visit I made to a group of hard-pressed local GPs. When I asked them if there was anything I could do to support them, they asked one thing – to encourage patients to use the NHS responsibly.

This doesn’t mean rationing use. The NHS is there for all of us, whenever we need it. But it does mean thinking about what we can do to help the NHS – simple courtesies such as cancelling appointments that are no longer needed and following doctors’ advice.

I do not think government is there to prescribe what people should eat but it does have a legitimate role to play in giving them the facts.

We are entitled to ignore it if we wish but we must acknowledge that there are consequences and a cost to the public purse that, ultimately, we all end up bearing.

On that note, may I wish you all a Happy and Healthy New Year and say a big thank you to all the hospital staff and medics who have been working hard throughout the festive break.