Health Inequalities: Office for Health Improvement and Disparities — [Derek Twigg in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:07 pm on 26th January 2022.

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Photo of Maggie Throup Maggie Throup The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care 4:07 pm, 26th January 2022

I was going to answer the hon. Lady’s point shortly, but I will answer it now. I will write to her on the important issue she raised about industrial disease. We need to ensure we have everything in place to enable families to access the different forms of support available to them.

I will come back to OHID for a moment. OHID has regional teams, which will have a vital role in working with integrated care systems at regional level. OHID will produce important data and information resources, which will be vital to ICS work in improving population health. Through ICSs, we will improve local working on population health and reduce health disparities.

One of the key objectives of these reforms is to give integrated care boards the responsibility and the ability to tackle health inequalities, as made clear in NHS England guidance. This will also reinforce the role of local authorities as champions of health in local communities and empower the NHS to improve poor health.

I will answer a few of the questions that have been asked. Mary Glindon raised e-cigarettes. I commend her for the work that she does through the all-party parliamentary group for vaping, and I reassure her that OHID will continue to monitor and publish evidence and reviews on e-cigarettes. Our tobacco control plan will be published later this year, outlining our smokefree 2030 plans.

Tim Farron highlighted disparities affecting rural communities. He raised a number of issues specific to his constituency, and I am sure that the relevant Health Minister will be happy to meet him to discuss them in more detail.

The hon. Members for Bootle and for Salford and Eccles (Rebecca Long Bailey) asked why we use the terms “disparities” and “inequalities”. I reassure them that the terms are used interchangeably, and it is important to understand that a term itself does not impact on our understanding of a problem or our response to it.

I thank the hon. Member for Bootle again for securing a debate on such an important issue. The pandemic has highlighted the impact of health disparities on people’s life outcomes and the pressures on the wider health and care system. The establishment of OHID, the creation of the new Health Promotion Taskforce Cabinet Committee and targeted investment in public health demonstrate that the Government are fully committed to tackling health disparities. I genuinely believe that by working together across Government, and with local authorities and the NHS, we can make a huge difference in improving health, life expectancy and life outcomes, particularly for the most vulnerable in our society.