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Health Inequalities

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:35 pm on 4th March 2020.

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Photo of Liz Twist Liz Twist Opposition Whip (Commons) 6:35 pm, 4th March 2020

Madam Deputy Speaker:

“Good health is an indication that a society is thriving and that economic and social and cultural features of a society are working in the best interests of the population”— not my words, but those of Michael Marmot last week. It was hard to hear his conclusions on health equity 10 years on from his 2010 report, especially for those of us in the north-east, where we have seen the biggest declines.

In the Metropolitan Borough of Gateshead, which includes my constituency, the gap in life expectancy between the most deprived and least deprived areas has increased: in 2010-12 it was 8.6 years for men, but for 2016-18 it was 12 years; for women, the gap has increased from 8.8 years to 11.2 years. The gap in healthy life expectancy is even more stark: between 2009-11 and 2016-18, the gap in healthy life expectancy for women in Gateshead increased from 4.6 years to 6.2 years. Healthy life expectancy is a significant issue because it creates more pressure as people need support from the NHS and social care.

The Minister said earlier that local authorities need to and can take control of this issue; Gateshead has been doing so, as recognised by Michael Marmot. The North East Child Poverty Commission estimates that 209,272 children throughout the north-east are growing up in poverty. That is 6,224 children just in my constituency of Blaydon, or nine children in a class of 30, living in poverty. There is growing evidence that growing up in poverty has a devastating effect on children’s physical and mental wellbeing.

This morning, I attended the launch of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health report on the state of child health in 2020. During the speeches, I was struck by the president of the college saying that it was too late for him to change his life expectancy—unless he takes up smoking and drinking, which he is not going to do—so he is focusing on the need to act for children. I was also struck by one of the things that the college recommended, which was for the Government to restore the money from the £1 billion real-terms cut to the public health grant for local authorities. It also recommended that funding should increase at the same rate as that for the NHS and be allocated based on population health need.

I would have liked to talk about smoking and alcohol, but time does not permit.