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Regional Health Inequalities

Volume 643: debated on Tuesday 19 June 2018

2. What assessment he has made of the effect of the level of funding for the NHS on regional health inequalities. (905913)

We take a comprehensive approach to reducing health inequalities, underpinned by legal duties. This includes addressing the wider causes of ill health, promoting healthier lifestyles, and tackling differences in health access and outcomes. A formula is used to allocate funding to clinical commissioning groups, and health inequalities form part of this.

Birmingham has some of the worst health outcomes in the country. It is not a surprise, as A&E waits of over four hours are up by more than 127% in recent years, and waits of more than 18 weeks for treatment are up by 65%. Yet, according to freedom of information request responses I have received, our trusts in Birmingham have to make savings of £155 million this year. What are the Government going to do to save the health system in Birmingham, which is currently in a state of collapse?

It is disappointing to hear the right hon. Gentleman making such negative points about his local NHS when 86% of GPs in his area are rated good or outstanding. Everything about yesterday’s announcement will tell Members that we are not complacent about the health challenges facing us, and we will make the necessary resources available. It ill behoves Opposition Members to keep continually talking down our NHS.

Does the Minister agree that the best way in which to reduce health inequalities across the country is to continue to build a strong economy that offers good jobs and prospects to all the people of our country?

I could not have put that better myself—[Laughter.] Opposition Members can laugh, but the Government firmly believe that work is good for people’s health. We are committed to getting 1 million more people with disabilities into work so that we actually treat them as assets, and we are encouraging them to be more independent and to take control of their own lives. The only way to achieve that is by having a strong economy.

When the coalition Government came into office in 2010, life expectancy began to stall for the first time in over a century. This, coupled with eight years of funding cuts, means that there are grossly disproportionate health inequalities across the country. For example, according to Northern Health Science Alliance, people in the north are 20% more likely to die early than people in the south. Is not it a failure of the Government’s funding deal for the NHS that it comes with no public health money to tackle these astonishing regional health inequalities?

No, it is not. Labour Members like to draw attention to north-south divides and so on, but the issues about health inequalities are much more complex than how money is spent and where. Within my constituency, for example, there are differences of 10 years in life expectancy depending on the particular locality. We need a much more multi-layered approach to tackling inequality, and that is what this Government will have.