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

The House has no greater champion of clean air than my hon. Friend. He is quite right—we have to tackle the wider social determinants of ill health, including pollution. We would introduce a clean air Bill. I am disappointed that the Government do not seem to agree that that is necessary.

I shall run through—[Interruption.] The Secretary of State is chuntering. He will have a chance to respond to the points that I have made. We all accept that smoking is a No. 1 cause of ill health and early death, causing about 115,000 deaths a year. Some 480,000 hospital admissions are attributable to smoking, which is an increase of 6% since 2013. That costs the NHS £2.5 billion a year—it costs primary care £1 billion and social care £760 million—but because of public health cuts, smoking cessation services in communities have faced cuts of £3 million. Over half of local authorities have been forced to cut services. Some local authorities have had to decommission smoking cessation services altogether, and 100,000 smokers no longer have access to any local authority-commissioned support. The number of people using smoking cessation services to help them quit has decreased by 11%—the sixth year in a row that the figure has fallen.

That means that smoking cessation services are, in the words of The BMJ,

“withering on the vine as councils are forced to redeploy funding to other areas”

Those cuts will lead to the risk of more people developing cancer and to higher costs for the NHS. It is a similar story with drug and alcohol services, which have seen cuts of £162 million, with more cuts to come this year.