HC Deb 02 June 1998 vol 313 cc161-3
7. Mr. Jim Dobbin (Heywood and Middleton)

What action his Department is taking to provide improved health information to men aged over 40 years. [42181]

The Minister for Public Health (Ms Tessa Jowell)

On 11 May 1998, I launched a new men's health leaflet, "Life Begins at Forty". The leaflet provides health tips and general health information designed specifically for men over 40, and is aimed particularly at men who are less well off. A million leaflets have been printed and are available through working men's clubs, GPs' surgeries, public libraries and so on.

Mr. Dobbin

I should declare an interest, being quite near 40 myself—perhaps towards the upper limit. Does my hon. Friend agree that, in our efforts to spread information on improving and maintaining the health of men over 40, we have a responsibility to provide for those men and their families decent wages, decent housing, a decent environment and decent leisure facilities? Does she also agree that driving up standards in public health is the responsibility not only of her Department and herself, as Minister for Public Health, but of every Government Department?

Ms Jowell

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Only by working across Government and through partnership at local level can we begin, first, to achieve improvements in the health of older men—that is, men over 40—[HON. MEMBERS: "What about women?"] Women tend to look after themselves rather better. Secondly, only by such action can we start to tackle some of the awful inequalities in health that mean that a man in social class 5—an unskilled man—is six times more likely to die of lung cancer and seven times more likely to be injured in an accident than a man in social class 1. It is those inequalities that we have to tackle, and we shall tackle them by working across Government, as one Government.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley (South-West Surrey)

As the Secretary of State is a man over 40, will the Minister consider having a task force to re-examine the health information that he receives? The right hon. Gentleman said that he would cut waiting lists; they have risen to record levels. He said that he would stop hospital closures; he has found that changing health care requires hospital changes. He abused health managers, only to find that they deliver the necessary changes. He said that he would abolish the internal market; he has re-badged it. Will the hon. Lady also ensure that her task force informs that gentleman over 40 that the NHS needs an average 3 per cent. real-terms increase a year to deliver quality care?

Ms Jowell

We shall take no lectures from the right hon. Lady on that subject. However, I am absolutely delighted that she rose to her feet on a question about the Government's new public health strategy. I draw her attention to a recent publication, "New Dynamics in Public Health", which concludes, about our new public health policy: A healthier nation paves the way for much more effective application of core national targets and a much greater scope for multidisciplinary work in pursuit of targets at a local level. That is very important in improving health for men over 40. That is an important new strategy and the evidence that we have suggests that it should succeed. The author is Tony Hockley, who was the right hon. Lady's special adviser.

Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

It is possible that I come into the category referred to in the question. What would be the position of such men, and indeed women, if, 50 years ago, the Conservative campaign to stop the national health service coming into being had succeeded? Is not the NHS one of the great blessings of our country? The last people to criticise it should be Conservative Members, whose party was against it in the first place.

Ms Jowell

My hon. Friend is, as usual, entirely right, and we shall take no lectures from the Conservative party on this matter. A Labour Government created the national health service; we will rebuild and modernise it and, in doing so, we will save thousands of lives. The action that we have announced today will result in a substantial reduction in preventable deaths in men over 40.