Skip to main content

Life Expectancy

Volume 670: debated on Tuesday 28 January 2020

Although life expectancy at birth remains the highest it has been, we want everyone to have the same opportunity to have a long, healthy life, whoever they are, wherever they live and whatever their background. We are committed to giving everyone five extra years of healthy life by 2035, and to addressing the needs of areas with the poorest health.

Life expectancy advances depend on good local service provision. Does the Minister agree with me and the people of Jarrow that, following the devastating closure of St Clare’s Hospice, we should take all possible steps to ensure that palliative care provision is put in place urgently in Jarrow constituency? Will she meet me to discuss this important issue?

I am unaware of the closure of that hospice, but my door is open to the hon. Lady. If she would like to see me at the back of the Speaker’s Chair after questions, we can arrange a suitable time to discuss the issue.

Today, a baby girl born in Liverpool can expect to live 13 fewer years in good health than a baby girl born in Richmond. A new study from University College London shows that being wealthy adds nine years to healthy life expectancy. Does the Minister agree that such health inequalities are an injustice in society that must be addressed urgently?

The best way to improve life expectancy is to prevent health problems from arising in the first place. Prevention is one of the top five priorities for the health service, and we are taking action to help people live longer and healthier lives. The Government have a proven track record of reducing the harms caused by obesity, tobacco and other substances. That is where we need to focus our efforts to ensure that life expectancy rises in all areas throughout the country.

The most shocking trend in life expectancy is that people with learning disabilities die so early—on average 25 years younger than the general population. We must see action to learn the lessons from each of those early deaths. The contract for the University of Bristol’s running of the learning disability mortality review ends in May, and there is now a growing backlog of cases, so will the Minister tell the House what the future of this important review is, and what staff resources are needed to continue the vital work of reviewing and reporting on early deaths?

We will introduce mandatory training for all health and social care practitioners. I hope that that will address the particular problem that the hon. Lady has brought up. It comes back to the substantial life expectancy issue, which is that regardless of the group, prevention is key.

In her initial response, the Minister rightly emphasised the importance of rising healthy life expectancy, as well as life expectancy more generally. Will she therefore join me in welcoming the forthcoming report from the all-party group on longevity—[Interruption.] If the Minister is listening, will she welcome the report, which will give the Government practical advice specifically on how to use prevention to raise the levels of healthy life expectancy?

I could not agree more with my right hon. Friend. We want everyone to have the same opportunity to have a long and healthy life, whoever they are, wherever they are and whatever their background. We will certainly look at that report.

I welcome the fact that one theme underpinning the NHS long-term plan is prevention, to help enable people to live better lives for longer. Does my hon. Friend agree that supporting people to make healthier choices, combined with improved screening and diagnostic services, will help to increase life expectancy?

I very much agree, and that is where the Government are directing their efforts. My hon. Friend mentioned screening; we have put extra resources into screening and scanners, including in Peterborough. We are absolutely attacking on screening programmes and on obesity and tobacco—all those issues that we know affect life expectancy and cause harms. The Government have made those issues their top priority.