HC Deb 12 February 2004 vol 417 cc485-6WH
10. Ms Meg Munn (Sheffield, Heeley)(Lab/Co-op)

What progress has been made in reducing the incidence of coronary heart disease. [153650]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Miss Melanie Johnson)

Deaths from heart disease, stroke and related causes have fallen by more than 23 per cent. compared with the figures for 1995 to 1997.

Ms Munn

I welcome the reduction that is now evident. I especially welcome the changes to the health service, which the Government put in place to make primary care the driver of much of the health service that is provided. What assessment has the Minister made of the contribution of primary care trusts to the fall in coronary heart disease and to preventive measures?

Miss Johnson

I am grateful for my hon. Friend's congratulations on the progress that we have made. We are working on a range of prevention measures for coronary heart disease, recognising it to be one of the biggest health problems that faces us.

GPs and primary care-based practices obviously have a huge role to play in what is said to patients regarding diet and nutrition. We know that the advice of doctors is taken very seriously by patients, and in general it is much more likely to be followed than the advice of others. We have invested £10 million in 66 PCTs to support the local five-a-day programme, which now reaches more than 6 million people. The national school fruit scheme has already been mentioned. It is also worth mentioning the statin spending, which is a major element in our success and one of the biggest single things that we have been able to do. It is costing more than £500,000, and it benefits an estimated 1.8 million patients by protecting them from heart attacks, probably saving about 6,000 lives a year. The work that PCTs must do is of the utmost importance in driving forward that agenda and making progress on prevention.

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield) (Lab/Co-op)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the link between smoking and coronary heart disease is very strong, and is she able to give her colleagues any evidence of a lack of public support for a ban on smoking in work and public places? The polls that I have seen suggest widespread support for a ban.

Miss Johnson

I certainly agree that there is a direct relationship between smoking tobacco and rates of coronary heart disease. That is why the Department of Health, with the British Heart Foundation, recently funded advertisements showing an artery with fat oozing out of it. We recognise the contribution that such measures make. I hope that those adverts give smokers pause for thought and that they head for our excellent smoking cessation services, which will help them to give up.

I note my hon. Friend's remarks about banning smoking in public places. He and I have debated that subject before and will no doubt do so again. Indeed, I hope that he will contribute in the lively way in which he has done this afternoon to the White Paper consultation exercise, because that will provide a good opportunity for these matters to be debated further.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

It is now time to move on. That was about as perfect a fit as could be managed in the circumstances. I am grateful to all those who participated in the debate for ensuring that that was the case. To achieve the least disturbing transition possible, I suggest a one-minute pause before the next part of the proceedings.

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