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Marmot Review

Volume 536: debated on Tuesday 22 November 2011

2. What plans he has to implement the recommendations of the strategic review of health inequalities by Professor Marmot. (81796)

The public health White Paper “Healthy lives, healthy people” gave details of our response to the Marmot review, and addressed the social determinants of health in people’s lives. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has read it. Yesterday we launched the University college London institute of health equity with Professor Sir Michael Marmot as its director, supported by the Department. The institute will help to promote the findings of the review across the NHS, public health and local government, and will ensure that health inequalities remain a priority.

Parts of my constituency are more than 1,200 feet above sea level. We know about the impact of cold homes and fuel poverty on health. According to the latest figures, cold has caused 25,000 excess deaths in England and Wales. What discussions has the Minister had with the Chancellor about the need to invest in making our homes warmer to reduce the number of such deaths?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that question. He will be aware of the 27,500 excess winter deaths that occur across the country, which is an increase of 17% on the deaths that occur at other times of the year. We have invested £30 million in total—£10 million to the Department of Energy and Climate Change and £20 million that local authorities can bid for—which will help to reduce those figures. It is encouraging that despite a very harsh winter last year the number of excess winter deaths has not risen.

There is an access issue when considering the rural dimension of health inequalities. The dispensing doctors play a huge role in meeting need in rural areas, yet there are concerns about changes in regulation that have affected them. Will the Minister or one of her colleagues agree to meet me and representatives of that group to discuss their concerns?

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health has already agreed to meet some people. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that health inequalities are not just something faced by the urban poor and deprived; they are also an issue in rural areas. We must make sure that people have adequate access.

The Minister will be aware of the emphasis that Professor Michael Marmot places in his review of health inequalities—which I have read, so I can quote it—on

“giving every child the best start in life”,

on creating

“fair employment and good work for all”

and on reducing “inequalities in income”. Yet, under this Government, 90% of local councils will be forced to make cuts to Sure Start, unemployment continues to spiral—it is at a 17-year high—and, far from reducing income inequality, the House of Commons Library has calculated that an area such as mine in Hackney, which is one of the poorest in the country, will lose at least £9.6 million in cuts to housing benefit alone and a further £2.84 million through cuts to child tax credit. However desirable some of the organisational changes in public health are in principle, how can the Government possibly make progress on tackling health inequality in that context?

How can the hon. Lady give Government Members lectures on health inequalities, given that those got worse under the previous Government? Life expectancy in Kensington and Chelsea is 85 whereas it is 74 in Blackpool, and that is after 13 years of a Labour Government. Family nurse partnerships have doubled and we are well on track to get the additional 4,200 health visitors. Through the public health Cabinet Sub-Committee we are determined to raise the standard of living for all, by providing new strategies on child poverty, social mobility, tax, pension retirement ages and so on. We are doing something, whereas the previous Government did nothing.