Life expectancy at birth is the highest it has ever been. Figures this week showed that last year mortality was the lowest since 2001, but we are not complacent. Already we have made clear our bold commitment to level up left-behind areas.
The truth is that if you live in poverty you will get ill quicker and die sooner. For my constituents in Pharos ward in Fleetwood, life expectancy is 10 years shorter than just five miles down the road in Carleton, and following the report that came out last week we know that life expectancy has stalled and for the poorest women it is now declining. What kind of damning verdict does the Secretary of State think that is on his Government’s 10 years of Tory cuts and austerity?
I agree with most of what the hon. Member said and the starting point in particular—that the gaps in healthy life expectancy are far too big. She will have heard me articulate from this Dispatch Box how important it is that we close those gaps. The news out this week of lower mortality in 2019 was good news that she ought to welcome, but it certainly does not mean that the campaign to close the gap in healthy life expectancy is over. There is far more to come.
Coronavirus has a bearing on life expectancy and I have a particular concern in relation to GPs in surgeries in my constituency. A world-leader on the transmission of infections raised with me a vital question, which is the provision of protective suits and training. At the moment, I am told that they are not being given to GPs, but exclusively to hospital staff. Will the Secretary of State please look into that and do something about it?
I am right across this issue. My hon. Friend is right to raise it, but I can reassure him fully that we have now rolled out personal protective equipment to two-thirds of primary care and the rest of it is in progress. We will absolutely address this issue. It is quite right that we did. We wanted to get the timing of the roll-out right so that the equipment is there should the epidemic hit in a very large way. We have to make sure we protect our health staff.