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Health Inequalities

Volume 546: debated on Tuesday 12 June 2012

The legal duties that we have introduced will ensure that health service commissioners have regard to the need to reduce health inequalities. The NHS and the public health outcomes framework will set out ambitions to reduce those inequalities in both health services and the health of the population. That is an ongoing area of work. We already have the indicators in the framework, but we also need the ambition to work on those inequalities.

Central Bedfordshire council has a number of public health challenges such as establishing health and wellbeing boards. Does the Minister agree that those challenges would be much easier to achieve and more effective if agencies such as social services, education services and others worked together? Are the Government doing anything to help facilitate that?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that education, social services and health services need to be brought together. That is exactly why bringing public health into local government is critical. If we add to that list housing and local business services, we have the mix to turn around many people’s fortunes. Some of the 66 indicators in the framework are school-readiness, social connectivity, air pollution and chlamydia, and they will all require local government to work at every level with all agencies to reduce inequalities.

What steps is the Department of Health taking to address the inequalities in regional health outcomes for pancreatic cancer?

We are doing a number of things, and the most important is devolving responsibility for public health to local areas. It is clear that delivering improvements in diagnosis, outcomes and so on for people with pancreatic cancer relies on different actions in different areas. The important thing is to give local people the power and money to do what they know is right.

I am sure the Minister would agree that Newark hospital is performing outstandingly in stamping out inequalities. However, given the expansion of population in Newark that is expected by the end of the decade, will the Minister allow me and some of my constituents to meet her to discuss the inequalities we anticipate?

I am always delighted to meet any hon. Member or hon. Friend and their constituents, particularly if they face inequality concerns.