UK life expectancy gap is widening- despite labours promises
The gap between average life expectancy and that of the poorest in England is widening despite efforts to close it, a National Audit Office report says.
Life expectancy is now 77.9 years for men and 82 years for women but in poor areas it falls to 75.8 and 80.4 years.
The NAO says this means that from 1995-97 to 2006-08 the life expectancy gap grew by 7% for men and 14% for women.
It is calling for more investment to help GPs tackle problems like smoking and poor diet in poor communities.
The NAO says the figures mean a Labour government target to reduce the difference in life expectancy by 10% by 2010 is unlikely to be met.
Its report says it is not possible to show how much money has been spent on tackling health inequalities, as primary care trusts (PCTs) are not allocated specific funding for the task.
But it says that at present the system “does not provide enough of an incentive” to encourage family doctors to focus on the neediest groups in their practices.
The report says it would not cost “a large amount of money” – £24m a year – to take key actions which would improve health in deprived areas.
These include increasing the prescribing of drugs to reduce cholesterol and control blood pressure, and doubling the capacity of services which help people quit smoking.
The report contrasts that amount with the £3.9bn spent by PCTs in the poorest areas on treating circulatory and respiratory illness.
Life expectancy for everyone in England improved under Labour, and now stands at almost 78 years for men and 82 years for women.
MORTALITY RATES FELL SLOWEST IN THE PRIMARY CARE TRUSTS OF:
* Blackburn with Darwen
* Nottingham City
* Ashton, Leigh and Wigan
* Leicester City
But the improvement rate has been slower in the most deprived communities, and currently the equivalent figures are 75.8 years for men and 80.4 years for women.
Analysis also showed that success rates in stop-smoking programmes were lower in the poorest communities than in other areas.
A spokesman for the British Medical Association, which has just concluded its annual conference, said: “We are disappointed that today’s report says that the Department of Health will not meet its target to reduce the health inequalities gap.
“At our meeting, the BMA passed a motion calling on the government to increase expenditure on prevention services to reduce health inequalities.
“It is particularly important to do this in early years to give every child the best start in life. We will also lobby for fiscal policies to narrow the income gap between the poorest and the richest in society. Doctors believe it is necessary to take this action to tackle health inequalities.”
Tags: BMA, DoH, GPs, labour liars, NHS Deaths