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Health Disparities White Paper

Volume 723: debated on Wednesday 30 November 2022

5. Whether she has had recent discussions with the Secretary of State for Health on a timetable for the publication of a health disparities White Paper. (902541)

The Department continues to review how health disparities can be addressed. In relation to the health disparities White Paper, further information will be available in due course.

There is a 20-year gap in healthy life expectancy between those who live in the most deprived areas of the country and those who live in the least. In Gateshead, my local authority, healthy life expectancy is 57.9 years for men and 58.5 years for women compared with a national average of over 63 years. The Conservative party promised in its 2019 manifesto to increase

“healthy life expectancy by five years by 2035.”

Will the Minister come clean and admit that, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics, the Government are not on track to hit that?

This is the first Government to want to tackle health disparities, which have been in place for generations. It is true that a woman born in Blackpool can expect to live eight fewer years than someone in Wokingham, but that is why the levelling up White Paper included a levelling up health mission to narrow the gap in healthy life expectancy between local areas by 2030. I refer the hon. Lady to the Core20PLUS5 work done by NHS England that is tackling the five single health indicators that are most expanding health disparities in the 20% most deprived communities.

Does the Minister agree that the health disparities White Paper is fundamentally an equalities White Paper and about levelling up, so areas such as Stoke-on-Trent, where we have significant issues with affordable, healthy food and an obesity emergency, need to know that the White Paper will cover those recommendations put forward in the national food strategy?

Of course, the health disparities White Paper is important, but work has already started on disparities. As I set out, the NHS has already launched the Core20PLUS5, where the 20% most deprived communities are being targeted with interventions in the five most clinically significant areas. Those are maternity, mental health, respiratory disease, cancer and hypertension. Work has already started, and I know that that is of particular interest in areas such as Stoke.

A new World Health Organisation study, published in The Lancet, found that poorer women in Britain have some of the highest cancer death rates in Europe. Income levels should not be the marker of someone’s chances of getting and dying from cancer. Does the Minister recognise that that is not acceptable, and will she commit to a cross-Government strategy that tackles health inequalities?

I refer the shadow Minister to the work that the Government are already doing. Cancer in particular is one of the five core areas in which we are investing significant resources to diagnose people earlier. She may be interested in the lung cancer detection vans, which go to those communities with the highest incidence rates and poorer outcomes for lung cancer. Some 70% of people with stage 1 or 2 cancer are being detected, significantly improving their life expectancy.