Women’s Life Expectancy

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons on 25th April 2019.

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Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Industrial Strategy)

What discussions she has had with Cabinet colleagues on the implications for Government policy of the most recent ONS statistics on women’s life expectancy in the poorest areas of England.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Labour, Kingston upon Hull North

What discussions she has had with Cabinet colleagues on the implications for Government policy of the most recent ONS statistics on women’s life expectancy in the poorest areas of England.

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)

Preventing health problems is the best way to improve life expectancy. We are taking action on childhood obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease and action to reduce smoking rates. Later this year, my Department will produce a prevention Green Paper, which will set out cross-Government plans for prevention in greater detail.

Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) (Industrial Strategy)

In Newcastle, cervical cancer screening rates are significantly lower in more deprived areas of the city, and the recent Macmillan cancer inequalities report showed that more deprived areas had worse access to cancer treatment. This is because people on lower incomes are more likely to be on zero-hour contracts and juggling childcare and other caring responsibilities with work, and therefore less able to access fixed-time appointments in places outside their local community. What is the Minister doing to ensure that the healthcare system reflects the lives of those in the poorest areas and to raise incomes so that we have fewer cancer and health inequalities?

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)

The hon. Lady raises an important point. We know that we need to make it easier to book appointments and more convenient for women to attend them. That is why Sir Mike Richards is undertaking a comprehensive review of screening programmes. It will look at how we can improve the uptake and set out clear recommendations on how we can make those screening programmes more accessible.

Photo of Diana R. Johnson Diana R. Johnson Labour, Kingston upon Hull North

ONS figures published in March 2019 show that the life expectancy of women in the poorest UK regions fell by 98 days between 2012 and 2017. Given that this is the first time that that has happened in peacetime since the Victorian era, what conclusions does the Minister draw from the fact that it has happened only since 2010?

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)

The conclusion I draw is to look at Public Health England’s recent review, which made it clear that it is not possible to attribute the slowdown in the improvement of life expectancy to any single cause. That is why we are not complacent, as I said in answer to Chi Onwurah. The Budget saw us fully fund the situation with a big cash boost, and there will be a prevention Green Paper and we have a prevention vision. All that will contribute towards ensuring that life expectancy, which has not been as good as one would have liked, improves.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

Smoking rates among pregnant women, particularly in poorer regions, remain stubbornly high, so what action is my hon. Friend taking to reduce smoking rates in order to make pregnancy and childbirth easier for young people?

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)

As I said in response to Chi Onwurah, the Government have already put in place prevention programmes to ensure a reduction in smoking rates. The prevention vision and the prevention Green Paper will set out the means by which smoking can be reduced further to support people, pregnant or otherwise.

Photo of Stephanie Peacock Stephanie Peacock Labour, Barnsley East

Life expectancy has fallen for the poorest women over the past nine years. What is the Minister’s analysis of why that has happened?

Photo of Stephen Hammond Stephen Hammond Minister of State (Department of Health and Social Care)

I answered that question just a moment ago. As I said, Public Health England’s recent review made it clear that it is not possible to attribute the slowdown to any one cause. It is therefore important to tackle all the causes of the deterioration in life expectancy, which is why the Government will publish a prevention Green Paper later this year.