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Health Disparities

Volume 729: debated on Wednesday 8 March 2023

Health disparities exist across a wide variety of conditions, from cancer to mental health, and contribute to the unacceptable variation in health outcomes. The major conditions strategy that we are launching will therefore apply a geographical lens to end the disparities in health outcomes across England.

I thank the Minister for that reply, but what does she make of the interesting comments by Sir Chris Whitty about health inequalities in coastal areas, such as Southend, and what are the Government proposing to do about those inequalities?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that there are disparities. There is an eight-year difference in life expectancy between a woman born in Blackpool and a woman born in Woking, and we want to end that. That is why our major conditions strategy is in parallel with the work that NHS England is doing on its Core20PLUS5, where we are targeting the 20% most deprived populations and the five key health conditions that are making those disparities apparent today.

The average life expectancy of a woman with a learning disability is around 18 years shorter than women in the general population, so on this International Women’s Day, what can the Minister say to women with learning disabilities about the disparity in their life expectancy in Britain?

The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point and that is exactly why mental health is part of the major conditions strategy. People with mental health and learning disabilities do suffer from poorer physical health, and that is why it is crucial that we do not see—[Interruption.] If he listened to me, he would have heard that I said “learning disabilities”. It is crucial that we do not see people with a learning disability in isolation, and that we look after their physical health, as well as the conditions they suffer from.

Pregnant women who live in the poorest areas of England are twice as likely to die than those living in the most affluent areas. Shockingly, black women are four times more likely to die during childbirth. This Government have had 13 years, but have failed to tackle maternal health inequalities. What action is the Minister taking to address these appalling disparities?

This is why we have set up the maternity disparities taskforce. We are working with the chief midwife to drive down those disparities, and we are working with NHS England. Maternity is one of those Core20PLUS5 elements, because we recognise that there is huge disparity across the country, which we want to eliminate.