It might seem odd at first glance to think we are doing 'old Joe' a favour by getting him fit and happy enough to pop down to his local for a pint or two with his pals.

Or to get "our Dot" up and ready to go on a shopping trip with her friends or relations.

But as health professionals, we know it is not just about being physically fit and healthy: it is often about how you feel inside. We all need to feel involved and part of what's going on, just as we like to feel needed and valued. A sense of well-being and self-esteem can be just as important as being free of pain and illness.

Which brings me on to the concept of assessing quality of life rather than simply measuring success numerically. As they say in the old textile belt of Lancashire where I was brought up: "Never mind the width, what about the quality?"

A million years of life

Our primary care trust has been focused on saving a million years of life for our population over a defined, four-year period. That is the ultimate "top line" target we have set ourselves and we are on track. We have saved 300,000 years of life in the first year alone with a series of measures designed to increase life expectancy, particularly for those of our residents living in deprived areas and suffering from health inequalities.

However, we have been given the opportunity to perfect this target even further by introducing the concept of quality life years. After all, what is the use of living longer if you cannot enjoy those extra years in terms of contributing, participating and feeling good inside?

We got a bit of a pat on the back recently from an organisation called Triple Aim, which focuses on the three equally important elements of population health, individual patient experience and value for money. The Boston-based organisation selected us to participate in one of its initiatives, along with other participants in Europe and the US.

But besides encouraging us to share our learning and experience in tackling health inequalities and life expectancy targets in East Lancashire, they urged us to focus on quality also, not just quantity. It has been useful to embrace their concept of being hale and hearty, the hale bit standing for "health adjusted life expectancy".

Ok, I know it's not rocket science and it is something all our frontline health professionals have been implementing for most of their working lives. But a reminder can do wonders to concentrate your efforts in a more meaningful and rewarding way.

Social prescriptions

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease teams have long known that getting a person out of the constraints of their limited lifestyle and able to do even the simple things again can do wonders for their morale and sense of worth. Our expert patients people know the vital importance of breaking the cycle of despondency and despair to improve a patient's feeling of usefulness and fulfilment. Easing stress, depression and mental fatigue can be just as important as getting the right prescriptions or access to treatment. Any GP worth his or her salt knows that only too well.

That is why our PCT is backing a social prescribing scheme in the Rossendale Valley called Just Go. The initiative aims to signpost people to non-medical services that are available and easy to access, in order to help them "feel better without pills or side-effects". Our PCT-backed reading groups in Burnley are another example of health-benefitting activity that brings people together and increases their feeling of well-being and involvement.

So there you have it: Dr Feelgood is alive and well, and hopefully feeling good inside. It certainly makes me feel good to be involved.