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Health Inequalities

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:03 pm on 4th March 2020.

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Photo of Angela Joy Richardson Angela Joy Richardson Conservative, Guildford 6:03 pm, 4th March 2020

It is a pleasure to follow Jamie Stone.

The NHS long-term plan will be critical in tackling health inequalities. I welcome the announcement that the plan will deliver on this issue and address inequalities by working locally, specifically targeting areas of unmet need.

I am mindful that I live in and represent a constituency that has a life expectancy above the national average for men and women. However, there is an inequality within Guildford between those who live to the north of the A3 in the Westborough and Stoke wards, and those who live to the south of the A3, who can expect to live roughly five years longer than their northern neighbours.

I pay tribute to the excellent work that has been undertaken by the Guildford health and wellbeing board, which produced a report in 2017 that runs through to 2022. It was produced in partnership with the clinical commissioning groups, the local authorities and voluntary organisations, which are key to the implementation of important help and support on the ground in our community. I believe that empowering our community volunteers will be crucial in narrowing health inequalities.

The first priority outlined in that report was to support people to take responsibility for their own health and wellbeing as much as possible, and that principle must always be the starting point in tackling inequality of health outcomes. Committing to a prevention first approach is vital. If individuals are able, with support, to look at habits around smoking, alcohol consumption, food choices and exercise taken, there will be a huge impact on reducing not only physical health problems but mental health issues.

Local authorities do an excellent job of promoting their parks and recreation facilities and holiday activities for children. We expend so much energy on protecting our green spaces, so it is vital that we use them. Voluntary groups such as SMART Cranleigh are working hard in the social prescribing sphere, helping those who are socially isolated, which we know can have a detrimental effect on life expectancy, as my hon. Friend Lee Anderson described so eloquently. Councillors have just opened a community fridge in Park Barn in my constituency, which stocks fresh vegetables, key to a healthy diet.

There will, however, always be those who need support and medical intervention, and the Government’s commitment to deliver £33.9 billion worth of investment in the NHS will make reducing health inequalities possible. I welcome that investment and trust that, with the excellent work already undertaken in the Guildford constituency on identifying areas of need, we might qualify for targeted support to improve the quality and length of life for my constituents who need it most. I am pleased to support the Government’s amendment this evening.