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Cardiovascular Disease

Volume 561: debated on Tuesday 16 April 2013

4. What support his Department has given to local authorities and NHS commissioners to improve cardiovascular disease outcomes. (150766)

On 5 March, we published the cardiovascular disease outcomes strategy, which included 10 key actions for commissioners and providers to ensure patients and carers get the best possible support. As set out in the strategy, we will continue to make data available to local authorities to see where their areas of greatest need are and to shape their own response accordingly.

Will my hon. Friend support the efforts of local clinicians, Tamworth borough council and charities such as Tamworth in the Community, which are working with parents, teachers and children to educate them about the importance of healthy eating and exercise, to deal with the health challenges we have in Tamworth and tackle the rather unfair notoriety that Tamworth gained in the press?

I commend the work being done locally in Tamworth to address this issue. As we know, one of the biggest public health challenges facing this country is obesity. The risk factors for cardiovascular disease include diabetes and high cholesterol. If we can tackle obesity and improve lifestyles, we will address both those risk factors directly, so I wish my hon. Friend’s local organisations every success in tackling those challenges.

As the Minister has said, those with diabetes are five times more likely than others to develop cardiovascular disease, which currently costs the national health service £9.8 billion a year. Will he commit to a public awareness campaign and issue guidelines for local health and wellbeing boards so that they make this a priority?

I commend the right hon. Gentleman’s work in raising the profile of diabetes. A lot of the Government’s work is focused on the importance of improving public health in this country and in particular on obesity, and if we are to tackle that we have to deal with diabetes. As a key part of that, we are now giving 40% of the public health money to local authorities to do exactly what he has just described: to focus money in the right places to tackle cardiovascular disease in those communities that most need it, particularly in inner-city areas.

The role of local authorities in scrutinising NHS decisions is now even more important, yet the joint health overview and scrutiny committee of Yorkshire and Humber councils was consistently denied a number of important documents, which was one reason the High Court ruled that the decision taken in the Safe and Sustainable review was unlawful. This is now in tatters. Will the Minister now confirm whether he will instruct NHS England not to appeal the High Court decision?

Surely the validity of evidence is a matter for the court. I am sure my hon. Friend would recognise that there has to be a distinction between what we do here in Parliament and what is done in the courts. If NHS England would like to appeal the decision and if it thinks there are good grounds to do that, it must do that. The decision will then ultimately be made in the courts, on the basis of how valid that appeal is.

The best way to improve outcomes for heart disease patients and get the best value for public money is to help people to manage their condition at home. Will the Minister therefore explain the thinking behind the Government’s strategy of cutting one in five district nurses, so that delayed discharges from hospital due specifically to a lack of NHS community services rise by 40%, costing taxpayers £6 million a month as a result?

The hon. Lady and Opposition Members are fond of saying that we are cutting the NHS. It is their party that has said it will cut; they think it is irresponsible to increase funding for the NHS. We on the Government Benches have invested £12.5 billion more in the NHS. There are 6,000 more clinical staff working on the ground, focusing specifically on early intervention, early strategies and lifestyle. We now have almost 1,000 more health visitors working in the NHS and we have expanded the family nurse partnership programme. All these things will make a difference. Indeed, there is now a lot more joint commissioning between hospitals and primary care, to ensure that commissioning arrangements are in place better to support the role of community nurses and district nurses in preventive care and better look after people with long-term conditions.