Skip to main content

Regional Health Inequalities

Volume 709: debated on Tuesday 1 March 2022

12. What steps his Department is taking to tackle regional health inequalities including waiting times for NHS treatment. (905784)

We are determined to address the many health disparities that exist across England, particularly in areas such as maternity. Last week I was pleased to announce the maternity disparities taskforce. It aims to tackle the difference in outcomes for pregnant women based on their race and background, which we want to end.

The problem is that the Government talk a good scrap, but their record on health inequalities is utterly deplorable. Before the pandemic, 4.5 million people were waiting for treatment on NHS lists, and 5,000 people in Hull were waiting for treatment at Hull Royal Infirmary and Castle Hill. Why is someone who lives in east Hull more than twice as likely to be waiting for more than 12 months on an NHS waiting list?

While I recognise that the waiting times in Hull are some of the highest in the country, I am sure the hon. Gentleman will welcome the investment that the Government are putting into his constituency to change that. The Royal Infirmary and Castle Hill Hospitals have £60 million of funding, and his own hospital recognises that it will provide some of the most modern facilities in the country. That includes £2.8 million for new respiratory wards, £1.6 million for new specialist theatre facilities, and £1.1 million for oxygen resilience wards, ensuring that his local hospital is able to tackle some of those health disparities.

In addition to regional disparities, will the Minister look into disparities between men and women’s health? Men die four years earlier than women on average, 75% of suicides are by men, and during the time taken for oral questions, one man will die from prostate cancer. Through my work as chair of the all-party group on issues affecting men and boys, we have taken evidence that points to the need for a men’s health strategy. The Government have done much over the years to reduce the gender pay gap. Will the Minister help me to reduce the gender age gap?

I absolutely take the point that my hon. Friend makes around the disparity in life expectancy between those in the most and the least deprived areas, which is greater for men. We will be publishing the health disparities White Paper, and we will focus on any disparities, including those that affect men.

The Minister’s answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull East (Karl Turner) was quite frankly unbelievable. The fact is that waiting lists are projected to continue increasing year on year. NHS data shows huge regional inequalities in waiting times. Across the river, at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, over 70% of patients are being seen within 18 weeks, but in University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust just 38% of patients are being seen in that time. That is not levelling up, so exactly when do the Government plan on getting a grip on those health inequalities?

I am disappointed that the hon. Gentleman is not happy with the investment going into Hull that will try to tackle some of those disparities, because we recognise that there are waiting lists.

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman realises that there has been a pandemic for two years. The Government have committed funding for elective recovery. We are investing in those areas that are in greatest need in the country, including Hull. I am sure that the residents of Hull welcome the investment that the Government are making in their hospital.