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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 appreciate that they need to know those figures, and they will know them extremely shortly.

I strongly believe that high-quality primary care is also crucial to early and preventive treatment, and key to reducing the health inequalities we are discussing. We are improving access to primary care by creating an extra 50 million appointments in general practice within the next five years, growing the workforce by 6,000 more doctors and 26,000 more wider primary care professionals. Within that, we want to target NHS resources, so that they can help their localities to level up. Through the targeted enhanced recruitment scheme, we are recruiting trainees to work in the areas of the country where we have had vacancies for years, particularly rural and coastal areas, such as Plymouth, and the coastal area of County Durham and North Yorkshire. It has already proved highly successful, with a fill rate of close to 100% last year, and over-subscription in many parts of the country. For that reason, we will increase the places on the TERS from 276 to 500 in 2021, and then up to 800 in 2020, to make sure that we get the skilled staff in the areas where they can do most good.

Practices, working together within primary care networks, will be asked to take action on health inequalities, to be agreed as part of the next 2021-22 GP contract. What happens in one’s early years, even before one pops out into the world, has an impact well into later life. Pregnancy and early years are therefore a key time to have an impact on inequalities. In particular, the fact that women’s life expectancy is so challenged is of acute importance to me. We have many challenges as we travel through life, and making sure that we are equipped to make the best of our lives, particularly as we often act as primary carers, is hugely important.

Pregnancy and early years are a key time to have an impact on inequalities. Many babies do get a fantastic start, but sadly it is not the case for everyone. Children in more deprived areas are more likely to be exposed to avoidable risks and have poorer outcomes by the time they start school. It is right that all universal support has a focus on reducing inequalities, and that it is targeting investment to meet higher needs. Many children are benefiting from investment in childcare and early years education. Fifteen hours of free early years education for disadvantaged two-year-olds and 15 hours of free early years education for all three and four-year-olds is key. We have also announced our commitment to modernise the healthy child programme to reflect the latest evidence to support families.