HC Deb 14 February 1991 vol 185 cc992-3
10. Mr. Simon Coombs

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what new intitiatives he is proposing to combat coronary heart disease.

Mr. Hanley

The "Change of Heart" coronary prevention programme launched in 1986 has been at the forefront of the strategy to reduce preventable illness and death and will be further developed in the coming years by the recently established Health Promotion Agency for Northern Ireland.

Mr. Coombs

My hon. Friend will be well aware that Northern Ireland has the highest incidence of heart disease in the world. Does he agree that this is a serious situation which calls for a major campaign of education in diet and health? Does he feel that the general practitioners of Ulster have a part to play in teaching people how to look after themselves and thereby reduce the incidence of heart disease in the Province?

Mr. Hanley

My hon. Friend's knowledge of this matter is well known, but I am pleased to say that the figures he has given are not quite accurate. Northern Ireland no longer has the worst record in the world. Over the past 10 years, the number of deaths from heart disease has fallen by about 25 per cent., and now stands at about 4,500 a year. Following the introduction of the new general practitioner contract last year, there are encouraging signs that GPs are taking a much more active role in promoting health through the establishment of health promotion clinics and centres.