HC Deb 12 March 1996 vol 273 cc771-2
5. Mr. Simon Coombs

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what progress has been made in reducing the incidence of coronary heart disease in England in the last 10 years; and if he will make a statement. [18388]

Mr. Horam

I am pleased to report that the trend in coronary heart disease is in the right direction. Mortality rates for CHD in people under 65 fell by 25 per cent. between 1987 and 1992. Since "The Health of the Nation" report in 1992, the trend has continued with falls of 10.7 per cent. in CHD mortality for under 65s and 7.7 per cent. for the 65 to 74 age group between 1993 and 1994. Progress, therefore, is very encouraging.

Mr. Coombs

The figures that my hon. Friend has given to the House are extremely encouraging, but can he confirm that there are still 140,000 deaths from coronary heart disease every year? Given that fact, how can the Government build on the success so far of "The Health of the Nation" strategy to convince that proportion of the population that continues to believe that it is immortal that that is not the case, and that sensible diet and exercise are worth while?

Mr. Horam

My hon. Friend is right. Coronary heart disease is still the major killer and my advice to everyone is to take more regular physical exercise. The House is not setting a good example. You will be aware, Madam Speaker, of the excellent facilities in the Boothroyd studio over the road in the Westminster gym. It is not well used by Members of Parliament and I say to everybody, "Get physical, release your endorphins and feel the stimulus of exercise. Look after your heart and your heart will look after you."

Mr. Kevin Hughes

What has the Minister to say about a recent Audit Commission report which says that access to coronary bypass operations depends on where one happens to live?

Mr. Horam

That is not the case. I have seen the report in question, but I shall certainly look at it again. If that is the hon. Gentleman's impression of the report, it is contrary to mine.

Mr. Jacques Arnold

While it is true that moderate exercise is very good for the health and for the prevention of coronary disease, does my hon. Friend believe that it is reasonable to ask young people to bicycle nine miles to school every day, perhaps to a school in my hon. Friend's constituency? Is it reasonable for parents to ask children to travel those nine miles?

Mr. Horam

My hon. Friend has a very real point.

Mr. McLeish

I am sure the Minister will acknowledge that, after the next election, Conservative Members will have more time to do any exercise that they choose. Will the Minister accept that, as 18,000 people die of coronary heart disease every year, we should be making a bigger effort to reduce those figures by more preventative measures and more treatment? Will the Minister also accept that a recently published report by the House of Commons Library shows that 40 per cent. of the district health authorities in England will not make the reduced target of 40 per cent. by 2000? Is not it a disgrace that people on waiting lists are dying because they cannot have access to a bypass operation? When will the Government stop being complacent and introduce policies that will address the real issues in the national health service?

Mr. Horam

If that is the case, I hope that I can count on the partnership of the hon. Gentleman in our Health Education Authority campaign, "Active for Life", which starts next week. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will join me to promote good habits.