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Sunday 23rd October 2016

Health secretary's goal to tackle health inequalities

11th June 2008

The government's commitment to tackling health inequalities and helping the most deprived communities was set out by Health Secretary Alan Johnson together with details of £34 million to fund programmes to support local communities.

In a speech to the Institute for Public Policy Research, Alan Johnson launched a Progress and Next Steps document, highlighting successes in reducing health inequalities since the NHS began sixty years ago.

Key achievements include:

  • infant mortality rate for babies under the age of one has fallen from 34 out of every 1000 births in 1948 to 5 out of every thousand births in 2006;
  • life expectancy has improved year on year for the last decade - it now stands at 77.3 for men and 81.6 for women in England
  • the proportion of children living in poverty in this country has halved in absolute terms since 1998-99
  • 2.5 million more people are in work and long term youth unemployment has practically been eradicated
  • the proportion of people living in poor housing has fallen significantly and over a million social homes have been brought up to standard

The document also identifies how the challenging PSA target for Health Inequalities can be met by 2010. Record spending in the NHS in England will increase from just over £90bn in 2007-08 to almost £110bn in 2010-11. This takes account of inequalities so that sustainable action can be taken.

We have already set out proposals to improve access to primary care, including £250 million for the most deprived primary care trusts to procure 112 new GP practices and to enable every primary care trust in the country to develop a GP-led health centre, open from 8am in the morning to 8pm at night, 7 days a week.

In addition to this, Progress and Next Steps announces £34million additional spending for programmes 2008-09, including:

  • £19m to support local communities in disadvantaged areas working to improve life expectancy and reduce infant mortality quickly in support of the national target. This includes rolling out the Communities for Health Programme to every area, working with communities to develop capacity to support individual behavioural change for healthier lifestyles; direct support to PCTs and local government, through further investment in the Health Inequalities National Support Team and the Improvement and Development Agency; establishing a new National Support Team to address high infant mortality in disadvantaged groups and areas; and
  • £15m focussed on those with the greatest need including children, those living and working in disadvantaged communities and those living with mental health issues. This will also include additional money to provide support for healthier lives.

Setting the direction of travel beyond 2010, today's event opens the debate on how Government and society as a whole can tackle inequalities in the future, and how we will measure it.

Secretary of State for Health, Alan Johnson, said:

"Health in the most disadvantaged parts of the country is improving rapidly, but the relative gap is growing and we will do more to reduce it. Inequalities in health go down to the root of where people are born and live, and it's time we set that right.

"I have always said that tackling health inequalities is one of my top priorities. Now is the time to redouble our efforts to meet the challenging 2010 targets, but it's also right to look further in the future. To make more progress we need to recognise and accept that health inequalities are everyone's business - not just an issue for the NHS, but for Government and Society as a whole."


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