Health and Care Bill DebateFull Debate: Read Full Debate
Luke EvansMain Page: Luke Evans (Conservative - Bosworth)
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We all know that the last top-down reorganisation of the health service was a disaster for our people and those who work in it, so I was quite excited to hear of the plans to sort it out. I must have been mad. Instead of bringing forward a Bill to deal with their own mess and sort out the health crisis they have created, the Government have introduced a hotchpotch, which will do neither and could make it worse.
The Prime Minister’s response to decades of regional inequality and underfunding of communities such as mine is pathetic. It seems that, instead of introducing robust proposals to reskill our people, invest in our services and tackle their homemade crisis in the NHS, the Government are telling us that an increase in al fresco dining and an extension to the service of takeaway pints are the answers. That sort of trite nonsense is downright insulting to people who live in constituencies such as mine.
People in Stockton North live shorter, less healthy lives than others in more affluent areas by virtue of geography alone. As Cancer Research UK has said:
“If the UK is to tackle inequalities and make sure no community is left behind…then health must be hardwired into the Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda.”
If the Government are serious about levelling up for communities such as mine, they will have to take meaningful action to tackle the health inequalities that plague them.
In Stockton North, 7.4% of the population suffer from asthma, higher than the 6.5% who suffer across England. In England, the level of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease among the population is 1.9%; that rises to 3.1% in my constituency. There are other inequalities, too, and we need action now. Will the new Secretary of State come good where others have failed and provide Stockton with the new hospital it desperately needs?
Some 13.2% of adults in Stockton-on-Tees are smokers, and smoking-attributable hospital admissions and deaths are increasing, yet Government action to reduce smoking has generally stagnated. Measures in the Bill to tackle obesity are welcome, but smoking is the leading cause of preventable premature death, and yet there are no proposals to tackle it. The Bill represents an ideal opportunity to introduce a US-style “polluter pays” levy with tobacco control, as recommended by the all-party group on smoking and health, and which the Government promised to consider two years ago in their prevention Green Paper. The all-party group—I declare my interest as the vice-chair—has provided a model for this approach, and I am grateful to Action on Smoking and Health and others for their work. The all- party group published a comprehensive set of recommendations that would help the Government to achieve their ambition of a smoke-free 2030, including further regulatory measures to de-normalise smoking, but nothing has happened.
Cancer Research UK has estimated that, on current trends, we will not make England smoke free until at least 2037, and it will be longer for poorer communities. We need action now. The Government say that we need bold action; they should take it now. That is one step towards tackling inequalities that blight our country.