HC Deb 23 February 1993 vol 219 cc747-8
1. Mr. Jenkin

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will make a statement on progress in implementing the proposals contained in the White Paper "The Health of the Nation".

7. Mr. Gerrard

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps have been taken to implement the proposal in "The Health of the Nation" to consider policies other than those of her Department in respect of their health implications.

The Secretary of State for Health (Mrs. Virginia Bottomley)

We are implementing "The Health of the Nation" in full, and a summary of current action and initiatives is in the Library. The ministerial Cabinet Committee set up to oversee implementation of the health strategy ensures that it is taken forward on a cross-departmental basis. The guidance on how health issues can be taken into account during policy development will be ready later this year.

Mr. Jenkin

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the health of the nation, and of constituencies such as mine in North Colchester, will benefit from the reforms of London's health service that she announced last week because we shall be able to look forward to a fairer share of the region's resources, of which we have been deprived in recent years? May I draw her attention to the press release issued by North East Thames regional health authority, which made no mention of those benefits to my constituents?

Mrs. Bottomley

I thank my hon. Friend and fully agree with his remarks. The firm action that we set out last week for radical change in London will mean a fairer distribution of resources in London, directing them to primary care, and also a more equitable distribution of resources throughout the country. Generally, it is a policy which will improve the allocation of resources throughout the health service. As my hon. Friend comes from a constituency which has long subsidised excessive provision in London, he is one of many Members who stand to benefit.

Mr. Gerrard

The White Paper acknowledges that there are close links between poor housing and unemployment and poor health. Government policies should take that into account. Can the Minister tell us precisely what her Department is doing to persuade the Department of the Environment that it ought to spend more to improve housing and not less, and to persuade the Department of Employment that creating real jobs is not merely good economic sense but is good for people's health?

Mrs. Bottomley

The great significance of the health strategy is that a Cabinet Committee oversees progress in meeting the targets. My Department is ensuring full implementation of the general practitioner contract—the Labour party voted against it—which is providing deprivation payments for inner city areas and has resulted in great progress with immunisation and cancer screening targets. There have been improvements in health throughout the country for all social groups, and that is the health strategy which we shall continue to carry forward.

Dr. Liam Fox

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that "The Health of the Nation" is a world model for a complete health policy? In congratulating her, may I ask her to consider the mechanism of health funding so that we can perhaps have a system in which funding allocated for the health service is more closely matched to the targets that we have set for ourselves?

Mrs. Bottomley

I can confirm my hon. Friend's remarks; the health strategy was commended by Dr. Asvall, the European director of the World Health Organisation, as a model which he would like others to follow. I was talking today about the importance of purchasing and the role of district health authorities. We are proceeding with those changes precisely so that health authorities can achieve the targets set out in "The Health of the Nation". We are confident about the activities of national health service trusts. The task now is to ensure that purchasers commission health care on behalf of local residents which meets the targets set out in the health strategy.

Ms. Eagle

Does the Secretary of State admit that there are connections between poverty rates, the rate of unemployment and ill health? What is her Department doing? What representations is it making to other Departments to cut unemployment and poverty, to increase the nation's health in a meaningful way?

Mrs. Bottomley

As I have made clear, the health strategy is overseen by a Cabinet Committee in which the contribution of different Departments is identified so that, together, we can meet the targets set out in "The Health of the Nation". The White Paper makes it clear that there are associations between, for example, matters of the environment. That is why the inner-city policies are so important and that is why taking forward improvements in housing is so important.

Over and above all that, the Labour party has failed to explain why it opposed the new general practitioner contract which has resulted in improvements for all social groups in all parts of the country. Above all, it has resulted in the introduction of deprivation payments for GPs in inner-city areas.

Back to