Health

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:55 pm on 14th May 2019.

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Photo of Jon Ashworth Jon Ashworth Shadow Secretary of State for Health 3:55 pm, 14th May 2019

Absolutely. Everybody accepts that advances in life expectancy cannot continue indefinitely, but we need urgent investigation into what is happening here in the United Kingdom. As Michael Marmot, the authority on these matters, says:

“Since 2010, this rate of increase has halved. Indeed, the increase has more or less ground to a halt.”

He goes on to say:

The first thing to say is that we have not reached peak life expectancy. A levelling off is not inevitable. In the Nordic countries, in Japan, in Hong Kong, life expectancy is greater than ours and continues to increase.”

We need to understand what is happening in the United Kingdom. Surely it can be no coincidence that this halt in life expectancy advances has come after nine years of desperate austerity in our society.

Many of us are puzzled by the fact that, although we know that growing up in poverty means that people get sick quicker and die sooner, and we all accept that it is shameful—the Prime Minister accepts that it is shameful and talked on the steps of Downing Street about wanting to tackle these burning injustices—the Government continue to cut public health services by £700 million, including cuts of £85 million in the current financial year.

The stark reality is that these inequalities are costing the NHS £4.8 billion a year, and we are seeing a growing burden of chronic ill health in society. The NHS long-term plan, with its many laudable goals and ambitions, is simply undeliverable without investment in local public health services and a reversal of these deep, swingeing cuts.