HC Deb 05 February 1991 vol 185 c155
14. Mr. Simon Coombs

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what new initiatives he is considering to combat coronary heart disease.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

Combating coronary heart disease is one of our biggest challenges. That was why we launched the joint Department of Health/Health Education Authority "Look After Your Heart" programme in 1987. A new five-year strategy was recently launched.

Mr. Coombs

Is my hon. Friend aware that the number of people who die daily in this country of premature coronary heart disease is equivalent to the number of passengers on a fully loaded jumbo jet? Does she realise that the four constituent parts of the United Kingdom are among the six countries with the world's worst record of coronary heart disease? How does she react to the report of the Standing Medical Advisory Committee on cholesterol testing, and, in particular, to the idea of giving general practitioners information about how to deal with patients with above-average cholesterol levels in their blood?

Mrs. Bottomley

As my hon. Friend rightly says, there are about 160,000 deaths each year and about 35 million working days are lost each year through coronary heart disease. Although our record for coronary heart disease was extremely severe, I can assure my hon. Friend that we have already beaten the World Health Organisation's health-for-all target of 15 per cent; we have seen a reduction of 24 per cent. in our coronary heart disease rates. We want to do very much better. The report by the Standing Medical Advisory Committee on cholesterol testing is still being considered, but most certainly general practitioners, like the Health Education Authority and the health service generally, have a full part to play in combating this cause of early death.

Mr. Galbraith

Does the Minister agree that one of the most significant contributions that we can make to the reduction of coronary heart disease is to reduce the incidence of smoking in the population? What steps are the Government taking, therefore, to curtail the advertising of smoking and why are they seeking to gut the Bill brought forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Warley. East (Mr. Faulds), which would certainly significantly reduce smoking among children and the younger age group?

Mrs. Bottomley

I endorse the point made by the hon. Gentleman; something like 20 per cent. of the deaths are associated with smoking. We spend around £3 million campaigning to reduce smoking. It is deplorable that those under 16 should be sold cigarettes. I very much hope that we can take further steps to prevent this. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is today consulting on the tobacco labelling directive, further wording and the attention that can be drawn to the fact that smoking damages health.