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Health Inequalities

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:55 pm on 4th March 2020.

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Photo of Anne Marie Morris Anne Marie Morris Conservative, Newton Abbot 5:55 pm, 4th March 2020

Good health and good healthcare are clearly the basis for happiness and prosperity for individuals and communities. As we have heard, many factors impact on health: some are personal and genetic; some are life circumstances, such as deprivation; and some are about the quantity and quality of health and care provision. But when this all comes together, we have a perfect storm. That is the plight of those who live in rural communities; my hon. Friend Derek Thomas alluded to that. Yet the 170-page Marmot report mentions the word “rural” only seven times, of which four are references to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. So what do we mean by rural? It is interesting. It is not consistently defined. The Office for National Statistics, DEFRA and the Welsh Assembly all have different definitions. They are based on sparsity and deprivation, but they do not really look at the same thing. What is worse, data is analysed at a very high level. The cut-off is 15,000 heads of population. That really is not granular enough.

Density profiles look at rural towns, villages, hamlets and so on. The way they are built up, in blocks of population of 1,500, again does not really cut it. We have bizarre situations where High Peak is deemed only 55% rural, despite being right next to a national park, yet Sevenoaks, which I always thought was a big town, is 70% rural. It is very odd indeed. So there is a huge mask in the data in terms of what really is deprivation and where the need is. Therefore, the funding that is delivered to rural communities, certainly in areas such as mine, is based on the wrong assumptions. In calculating whether my constituents need money, there is a decision: do they have cars? Yes. That means they are affluent and do not need the money—wrong.