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Health Inequalities

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:32 pm on 4th March 2020.

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Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 4:32 pm, 4th March 2020

I thank the hon. Member—he has just got himself a job as an ambassador. I congratulate him on quitting smoking, because it is hard.

The specialist centre showed me that with the right holistic support and encouragement, the health of both mum and baby can be improved. Such services will be crucial in achieving the ambition of becoming a smoke-free society by 2030.

Similarly, we must tackle the health harms caused by alcohol, and support those who are most vulnerable and at risk from alcohol misuse. Through the NHS plan, up to 50 hospitals with the highest rates of alcohol dependency-related admissions will have alcohol care teams. That could prevent more than 50,000 admissions every five years. Currently, eight of those teams are in operation, providing seven-day services focused on those areas with the highest levels of admissions related to alcohol dependency.

Alcohol addiction has a devastating impact on individuals and their families, and it is unfair that children bear the brunt of their children’s condition. I know that this topic is dear to the heart of Jonathan Ashworth, who has spoken about it movingly. I pay tribute to the way he has influenced this agenda in this place. I am pleased so say that we are investing another £6 million over three years to help fund support for this vulnerable group.

As is often the case with addiction, there is a toxic mixture of several items. On substance misuse, last Thursday I attended the UK-wide drug summit in Glasgow, along with Home Office Ministers and Ministers from the devolved Administrations. We discussed the challenges associated with drug misuse and listened to Dame Carol Black present her findings from the first phase of her review. I am pleased that my Department will fund and commission the second phase of the review, which will make policy recommendations on treatment, prevention and recovery. Only through the combined efforts of different Departments working together can we hope holistically to improve the health and other outcomes of people with substance misuse problems. Many of us know from our constituency work that they often bounce between various parts of the system. Local authority leadership and action on public health prevention is vital as it will help to focus local measures to decrease health inequalities. As a condition of receiving long term plan funding, every local area across England must set out specific and measurable goals, and ways by which they will narrow health inequalities over the next five and 10 years. Local areas know their localities best.