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Health Inequalities

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:18 pm on 20th March 2019.

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Photo of Jackie Doyle-Price Jackie Doyle-Price The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 5:18 pm, 20th March 2019

I have limited time, and I would like to get through this.

As I said, we have made it clear that the long-term plan will be focused on reducing inequalities. Jim Shannon mentioned people with learning disabilities and autism, and I can tell him that those people are a real priority for me. When we consider inequality, the life expectancy of people with those conditions is massively less than it ought to be, and we need to fix that. This year we expect all local health systems to set out how they will reduce health inequalities by 2023-24 and by 2028-29. Through that, we are targeting specific areas. NHS England will highlight areas in which it can do specialist commissioning. One example is people who are rough sleepers, who have low levels of life expectancy.

I absolutely agreed with what Sir Kevin Barron said about social prescribing. How we deliver health services depends not only on medicalised professions and clinical support; when tackling inequality, a lot of the wrap-around and de-medicalised support can deliver better health outcomes. I am very excited to hear about what is happening in Rotherham, so I might pay a visit next time I go to see my mum. That would be quite nice.

Turning to the specific points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Telford about her local trust and the impact on inequalities, she has clearly articulated the issues that she is concerned about. The decision is clearly a local one, but it is within the gift of the council to make an appeal to the Secretary of State, and I gather from my hon. Friend’s comments that that will happen. I obviously cannot prejudge the outcome of that case, but I assure her that when it arrives on the Secretary of State’s desk, he will consider it impartially. She has articulated the concerns from her constituents’ perspective extremely well.

I am under no illusion about the fact that tackling inequality requires commitment and leadership, energy and focus, and national and local accountability. Let us look at the plans that come from clinical commissioning groups later this year and interrogate them to make sure that they will tackle inequality. We will make sure that we stand fully behind them to ensure that they deliver.