Bradford East MP, Imran Hussain has today slammed the Government’s decision to scrap the long-planned white paper on health inequality, warning that failing to tackle rampant health inequalities will mean that thousands more will die younger than those in more affluent areas of the country.
The Health Inequalities White Paper was announced in February 2022 by the then Health Secretary, Sajid Javid MP and was intended to set out the Government’s strategy to tackle what they described as “unacceptable disparities in health outcomes” by breaking the link “between people’s background and their prospect for a healthy life”. Yet despite a plan to publish the white paper in Spring 2022, when Imran asked the Government in July when the white paper would be published, he was only told that “plans for the white paper will be available in due course”.
However, after repeated delays and missed publication dates, a leak from the Department for Health and Social Care on Thursday 29 September stated that the new Health Secretary, Thérèse Coffey MP has decided just weeks into the job to not publish the white paper, with the source declaring that “it’s never going to appear” and that “the white paper is being canned”.
This decision comes amidst rising health inequalities across the country, with a gap of almost 20 years in life expectancy for those born in poorer areas according to an Office for National Statistics (ONS) report in April 2022, whilst research from studies such as Born in Bradford and Bradford Council’s Health and Wellbeing Board shows that life expectancy in Bradford is also falling, particularly as a result of respiratory disease and cardiovascular diseases which are often easily preventable.
On Thursday 22 September, Imran raised the issue of health inequalities in Bradford with the Health Secretary following her announcement of a target for GPs to see patients within two weeks, telling her that no waiting time target could ever be met without reducing demand for appointments by tackling rampant health inequalities, and urging her to back his bid for £20 million of support from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund Round 2.
Speaking on the impact of the Health Secretary’s decision on Bradford, Imran said:
“As one of the country’s most deprived regions, Bradford faces some of the worst health inequalities, with stark differences and higher a prevalence of preventable, poverty-inflicted diseases which mean that not only are people in poorer general health than those living in more affluent areas of the country, but that they die at a younger age too.
“With a rising cost of living forcing more families into destitution, these health inequalities will only get worse and the gap in health outcomes between the richest and the poorest will only get wider, which is why I’m very worried that the Health Secretary’s decision to scrap this much-needed strategy paper will lead to many more Bradfordians dying long before those living in more better-off parts of the country.
“If we are to have any chance of levelling-up left behind regions like Bradford, we need to tackle these health inequalities, which is why I’ve submitted a bid for £20 million of funding for three new, grassroots health and community centres, and I’m glad that the decision on funding awards lies with someone other than the Health Secretary, who despite her responsibilities, seems to care so little for improving health outcomes for some of the poorest and most disadvantaged.