§ Mr. Andrew Turner
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the extent of inequality of(a) health, (b) access to health and (c) accessibility of health services; and if he will make a statement on the extent to which these inequalities have changed since 1997. 
§ Miss Melanie Johnson
[holding answer 29 October 2003]: The health gap, between those at the top and bottom ends of the social scale, remains large and in some areas continues to widen, despite overall improvements in health. We have set a national target to reverse this trend and, in July, published a Programme for Action. The latest available data shows that while the gap between the infant mortality rate for routine and manual groups and the whole population widened slightly, there was no significant change for male or female life expectancy for the same period. This data refers chiefly to the period before targets were set. We will be publishing a first annual report on health inequalities in 2004. Other inequalities in access to services and accessibility of services are not readily measurable in a nationally comparable way. We have asked primary care trusts to undertake a health equality audit to identify and tackle important health inequalities in their area. The first results are due in 2004.