HC Deb 20 January 1998 vol 304 cc799-800
1. Mr. O'Neill

What plans he has for tackling inequalities in health in Scotland. [21712]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Sam Galbraith)

The priorities and planning guidance for 1998–99, issued in August 1997, to the national health service in Scotland includes tackling inequalities in health. In addition, a Green Paper will be published shortly, seeking views on our proposals for improving health in Scotland and for tackling inequalities.

Mr. O'Neill

I congratulate my hon. Friend on announcing the publication of the long-awaited Green Paper. It is 18 years since the Black report was published, showing clearly the link between inequality and poor health throughout the United Kingdom. Could my hon. Friend also find the means to make the Black report available again? He will recall that it was available for only a short period before it was suppressed by Mrs. Thatcher's last Government.

Mr. Galbraith

I very much regret that the Black report was not published extensively and in full. The last Government's failure to recognise the link between deprivation and ill health has greatly held back the progress of the nation's health. We are currently involved in updating much of the information contained in the Black report, although the basic premises will remain the same and will be reflected in our forthcoming Green Paper.

Mr. Moore

In reviewing funding formulae for the health service in Scotland, will the Minister ensure that deprivation in rural areas receives as much priority as any other factors that he may take into account?

Mr. Galbraith

As the hon. Gentleman knows, a specialist group is reviewing the SHARE—Scottish health authorities revenue equalisation—allocation formula, which has been around since the late 1970s and needs to be updated. One of the areas that it is considering for the distribution of funds is what is known as the "rurality" index. I make no judgments about it. We are waiting for good scientific advice, which is what we expect from the committee.

Mr. Maxton

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the greatest inequalities in health in Scotland is the appalling difference between the dental health of young people in deprived areas and in better-off areas? Does he agree that the most effective and cheapest way to solve that problem once and for all is to introduce fluoride into the public water supply?

Mr. Galbraith

Yes, we often forget the importance of dental health in this debate. Like all ill health, it is directly related to deprivation in society. We can tackle poor dental health by cutting down sugar intake and by regular brushing of teeth, but the best and most effective way to improve dental health in deprived communities is to include fluoride in the water supply.

Back to