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Health Inequalities

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:36 pm on 4th March 2020.

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Photo of Lee Anderson Lee Anderson Conservative, Ashfield 5:36 pm, 4th March 2020

It is an honour to follow Taiwo Owatemi.

It should not matter where one lives in the UK in terms of leading a healthy lifestyle, but we must accept that sometimes there is poor health and the possibility of poor health. I am pleased to see that this Government are not shying away from the challenge, with record amounts of investment in our NHS, now enshrined in law—the largest and longest funding settlement in the history of the NHS. But we all need to start having an honest conversation with ourselves about closing the gap on health inequality, because it is one of the biggest challenges we face in this country. We need to start to admit to ourselves that we must make different lifestyle choices. We must think about the smoking and drinking we are all doing and the lack of exercise.

Loneliness is a big one for me. Loneliness is a killer. Far too many people in this country face life alone, whether that be due to their age, their disability, or just their own personal circumstance. In my community, we have the brilliant Huthwaite Hub, which is a charity I helped to set up four years ago with two brilliant ex-schoolteachers, Dai James and Geoff Jago-Lee. The idea was simple: get a big room, fill it full of woodwork machines, tools and materials, and then invite people who are socially isolated to come along and learn new skills. The community and local business really came together and donated everything we needed, and a lottery grant was the final piece of the jigsaw. The brilliant Huthwaite Hub has now seen hundreds of people come through its doors who otherwise would have been sat at home depressed and surviving on antidepressants. That facility is better than any tablet and has transformed the lives of many people in my area. I invite anybody in this House, and especially the Minister, to come and visit the brilliant Huthwaite Hub.

I sometimes get a little bit fed up with the Labour party using the subject of health as a political football. At the last four general elections Labour has put health at the top of its campaign agenda and has been rejected at the ballot box every single time. Just a few months ago, it suffered its biggest defeat since 1935, which, roughly translated, means, “The public just do not trust it.” Something very noticeable in areas like Ashfield and Eastwood, and in other similar constituencies throughout the country that have always been the victims of health inequality, is that they have always had a Labour MP and Labour-run councils—that is, until the election last year. As somebody once said, “Things can only get better”. There is a Budget coming shortly, which will see record amounts of investment in infrastructure all over the country, especially in places like Ashfield and Eastwood.