The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommends that exercise referral schemes should be provided for people at increased risk of ill health, and it is right that such schemes are developed on a local basis to meet the needs of the population. Our NHS five year forward view strategy prioritises prevention, and the GP physical activity clinical champion programme has taught more than 4,500 healthcare professionals to provide advice on physical activity in routine clinical consultations.
In the north-east, only 33% of adults participate in weekly sport, compared with 38% in London. This has a knock-on effect on people’s health throughout their lives. What are the Government doing to address these geographical health inequalities?
The hon. Lady is absolutely right to raise this question. Inactivity costs England an estimated £7.4 billion a year, and regular physical activity reduces the risk of developing many health conditions by between 20% and 40%. People who exercise regularly can reduce their risk of developing certain kinds of cancer. We are particularly pleased that, in addition to the GP physical activity clinical champion programme, Public Health England has secured funding from Sport England to pilot an education cascade model involving midwives, physiotherapists and mental health nurses and, with the support of the Burdett Trust for Nursing, will soon be launching a pilot involving 21 clinical nurse champion programmes to embed this knowledge in practising nurses. It will, however, be up to local areas to ensure that they make the best of these programmes by targeting them at their local area.
On the behaviour part of the question, what can the Minister do to combat what seems to be an emerging picture of over-consumption of painkillers and to enforce NICE guidelines on their use?
The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue relating to drug and alcohol misuse. We have prioritised this question as one of the local statutory requirements. We have given £16 billion to local health authorities for public health delivery, and we will expect them to prioritise this issue.
Lack of physical activity contributes to obesity. With today’s Health questions falling on World Obesity Day, as I am sure the Minister is aware, it is vital that we recommit our efforts to reversing rising obesity levels in the UK. An opportune moment would have been the childhood obesity strategy—sorry, the plan—that was published over the summer, but sadly it did not go far enough. Therefore, will the Minister commit today to ensuring that the plan is fully realised as a preventive strategy to change behaviours and help to make the next generation healthier than the last?
I congratulate the hon. Lady on her appointment. I am particularly pleased to see her in her place. She has played an important role in the all-party parliamentary group on breast cancer. We are very proud of the childhood obesity plan. It is based on the best available evidence, and it will make a real difference to obesity rates in this country. The Government are also consulting on the soft drinks industry levy, and we have launched a broad sugar reduction strategy. She is absolutely right to say that we must now work hard to ensure that we deliver on that with the NHS, local authorities and other partners as we move into the delivery phase of the plan. We are proud that it is a world-leading plan.