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Health Inequalities

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:15 pm on 4th March 2020.

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Photo of Jon Ashworth Jon Ashworth Shadow Secretary of State for Health 4:15 pm, 4th March 2020

My hon. Friend makes that point very well. Not only are there inequalities in health outcomes, but inequalities are opening up in access to health services.

I said that I understood why the Secretary of State cannot be here, but he has now joined his colleagues on the Front Bench. I will state, just for the record so that he can be reassured, that I did not criticise him for not being here—I said that I entirely understood why he could not be here. But he is always welcome to listen to my pearls of wisdom, of course.

Michael Marmot’s analysis was shocking, and his conclusions devastating. Let me remind the House of what Professor Marmot found: for the first time in more than 100 years, life expectancy has essentially flattened overall since 2010, and has actually declined for women in the poorest areas of England. In last week’s Opposition day debate, the Health Secretary told Opposition Members that we must debate these issues based on the facts. In fairness, he said that there were life expectancy differences between, for example, Blackpool and Buckingham. [Interruption.] Indeed—gulfs. The Secretary of State made that point. If I may say so, however, I do not believe that he was as clear as he could have been in presenting the full picture for the benefit of Members. When we look at the figures, we see that for more than 100 years, life expectancy has been increasing by about one year every four years. More recently, from 2001 to 2010, the increase was 0.3 years for each calendar year for men and 0.23 years for women. Between 2011 and 2018, the average rate of increase was 0.07 years for males and 0.04 years for women. By any standards, that is a truly dramatic lowering in the rate of improvement in life expectancy between 2011 and 2018.