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Life Expectancy

Volume 491: debated on Wednesday 22 April 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what measures he intends to adopt to ensure that local authorities in the Spearhead Group considered not to be on track to reach the 2010 target of reducing the gap in life expectancy compared with the population as a whole by 10 per cent. are able to meet their target. (269775)

Health inequalities are a key priority for the national health service as set out in the NHS Operating Framework 2009-10 and all primary care trusts (PCTs) are required to have plans that add up to a narrowing of the life expectancy gap. Incentives for the NHS and local authorities have been aligned with the same health inequalities indicators in both the NHS Operating Framework 2009-10 and the New Performance Framework for Local Authorities and Local Authority Partnerships: Single Set of National Indicators. PCT performance against health inequalities plan is managed through strategic health authorities.

The Department is working to provide local partners with the support and tools they need to tackle health inequalities effectively and meet the 2010 National Target. This includes establishing a range of national support teams (NSTs) with an inequalities focus, providing tailored, intensive, assistance to areas that face the biggest challenges in delivering public health-related Public Service Agreement targets. The NSTs which have a particular role in supporting the inequalities targets are:

Health Inequalities NST;

Infant Mortality NST;

Tobacco Control NST; and

Teenage Pregnancy NST.

The NST for health inequalities, has been expanded and will have offered to visit all Spearheads by summer 2009.

In addition, the Department is funding the Improvement Foundation to deliver a Healthy Communities Collaborative programme to promote earlier presentations of cardiovascular disease and cancer symptoms in Spearhead areas. In addition, the Department has continued or expanded support for communities to tackle inequalities such as the Improvement and Development Agency’s Healthy Communities and Communities for Health programmes.

A range of important tools has been developed to support target delivery in local areas, including:

Health Inequalities Intervention Tool;

Health Poverty Index;

Local authority ‘Health Profiles’; and

Health Equity Audit.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the causes of excess deaths within the Spearhead Group of local authorities considered off track from reaching their 2010 target of reducing the gap in life expectancy compared with the population as a whole by 10 per cent. (269776)

National level analysis of the life expectancy gap by the Department shows circulatory disease, cancer and respiratory disease account for around two thirds of the gap in men and women. Other drivers of the gap are digestive diseases, external causes of injury and poisoning, infections and parasitic diseases and deaths under 28 days. Further information is contained in “Tackling Health Inequalities: 2005-07 Policy and Data Update for the 2010 National Target”, which has already been placed in the Library.

The relative contribution of specific causes varies from one Spearhead to another. The Health Inequalities Intervention Tool for Spearhead Areas, jointly developed by the Association of Public Health Observatories and the Department provides a breakdown of the causes of the life expectancy gap by disease type and age in each Spearhead local authority.