Hospital Dr News

Government needs to act following evidence that health inequalities widening

Medical bodies have reacted with dismay to a new review on health inequalities by Professor Sir Michael Marmot – which shows that health inequalities have widened.

In a new review by the Institute of Health Equity – marking ten years since the original Marmot Review – there’s evidence to suggest life expectancy has stalled, and has actually declined for the poorest 10% of women.

Place plays a significant role with the north-south health gap opening up further still – with the largest decreases in life expectancy seen in the most deprived parts of the North East, and the largest increases seen in the least deprived parts of London.

BMA board of science chair Prof Dame Parveen Kumar said: “With the health of the population deteriorating, the gap between the health of those in the most deprived and those in more advantaged areas widening, and life expectancy stalling, alarm bells should be ringing for the Government.

“It is unacceptable that those living in the most deprived areas outside of London are seeing their life expectancy stalling or even declining in some cases – this must be addressed.”

The Marmot Review drove a paradigm shift in the way people think about the causes of poor health, and played a huge role in establishing the political imperative for tackling inequalities.

Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “There is a clear signal here – the Government must boost spending on public health and, in next month’s Budget, prioritise funding for the most deprived areas first.

“It is not enough for the Government to state that austerity is over. Failing to invest in preventative care will just pile pressure on A&E departments, GPs and other front-line services and the evidence that services such as sexual health clinics and smoking cessation work is overwhelming.”

On the positive side, evidence shows that over the last decade, efforts from local authorities to reduce inequalities have significantly grown.

But, austerity took its toll and the government must do more to support their efforts.

Health is affected by the environment in which we live and the more deprived the area, the shorter the life expectancy.

Dickson added: “During the last ten years local government, which has held public health responsibilities, has become increasingly cash strapped.

“New integrated care systems offer a real opportunity for health and local government alongside primary care networks to work together on this agenda as they will hold responsibilities for population health and ensure that health services benefit people equally.

“With proper funding for both health and care, this is a real opportunity to provide new types of service based on what is best for their local communities.”

In response, the Royal College of Physicians called on the Government to increase both the ‘national minimum wage’ and the ‘national living wage’ to be at least in line with the real living wage.

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