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Health Inequalities

Volume 670: debated on Tuesday 28 January 2020

We are determined to address the long-standing inequalities that exist in many areas, be they in access, outcomes or people’s experience of their local health service. Our world-leading childhood obesity plan, NHS health checks, the tobacco control plan and the diabetes prevention programme all see us leading the way, but there is undoubtedly more targeted work to do on this complex issue, particularly in areas of high need.

The recent mental health prevention Green Paper recognised the link between deprivation and poor mental health outcomes. Along with the proper funding of frontline and early intervention services, mental health inequality needs urgent action, so when will the Minister get to work to sort out this mess? People in east Hull desperately need access to services that are currently not available.

I agree with the hon. Member. I and my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Bedfordshire (Ms Dorries), who has responsibility for the mental health element of the portfolio, are working hand in glove on this. Often, it is the dual toxicity of addiction—be it substance or alcohol abuse—and mental ill health that drives health inequalities. We are targeting the matter and working together on access to make sure that we drive down these health inequalities.

Many people with severe conditions such as agoraphobia face inequalities in accessing life-saving services such as cervical smear tests. What is my hon. Friend doing to ensure that these services can be administered outside a clinical setting, thus reducing health inequalities for those who, for whatever reason, are housebound?

No woman should be denied access to vital screening. I believe that my hon. Friend is referring to a particular matter in her constituency where it has been very difficult for somebody to access screening. I am happy to meet her to see how we can work through this. We are actually working on a home kit for cervical screening, which should help in time, but nobody should be denied access. We are committed to improving access for all women, and I will be happy to meet her to see what we can do.