Labour is rising to the challenge of the health inequalities that have mushroomed under the Tories, says leading GP and health campaigner Dr Kailash Chand OBE:
John McDonnell has used his first major speech of the election campaign to promise an “irreversible shift in the centre of gravity in political decision making and investment” from London to the North.
Labour will commit at least one hundred billion pounds to replace, upgrade and expand our schools, hospitals, care homes and council houses to address the massive inequalities.
The health of people in North is measurably worse than the national average on measures such as obesity, alcohol consumption, the number of incapacity benefit claimants with mental illnesses and over-65s in poor health, as well as in overall life expectancy.
There are stark inequalities in deprivation, gender and ethnicity. Public Health England recently mapped mortality rates across the country so that local people and councils can see where they rank for premature deaths from the four main killers: cancer, lung disease, liver disease, and heart disease and stroke. The figures show that people living in the worst performing area, North of England, are more than twice as likely as people in Wokingham, Berkshire, to die before the age of 75.
As well as inequalities when compared nationally, inequalities exist within North of England – a boy living in the poorest part of the region can expect to live 17 years fewer than a boy living in the most affluent part of North.
All my working life in the NHS has been focused on exposing and tackling inequalities in health. I have studied the circumstances in which people are born, grow, live, work,and age. These are all the main contributors of health inequalitiesrather than defects in our healthcare system.
Heart disease is not caused by statin deficiency; stroke is not caused by deficiency of hypotensive agents. I have emphasised not just the causes of health inequalities – behaviours, biological risk factors – but the ’causes of the causes’. The causes of the causes reside in the social and economic arrangements of society: the social determinants of health.
As well as inequalities when compared nationally, inequalities exist within North itself – a boy living in the poorest part of the region can expect to live 17 years fewer than a boy living in the most affluent part of North. We know health inequalities are killing on a grand scale.
Young people across North of England may die at an earlier age than their grandparents if the region fails to curb smoking, drinking and obesity – and is deprived of the resources need to do so.
We in North of England are great in innovation, research and entrepreneurship – but we are unfortunately also ‘champions’ of England in smoking, obesity and drinking.
But now Labour is rising to the challenge. The Labour party has a vision for our health and social care system under the visionary leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. Labour plans to break up the Treasury and devolve some of its powers from London to the north; but it’s not just about spending more. It’s about how it’s spent.
With decision-making devolved down to local communities, Labour will carve out part of our National Transformation Fund for a Local Transformation Fund in each of England’s regions, with funding for the devolved governments as well. And that money will be ring-fenced for infrastructure projects decided and developed at a local level, with decisions made transparently and democratically in each region about how their fund is allocated.
Regional offices of government departments overseen by a board of local county and city council leaders will be publicly accountable to open meetings of local councillors, trade unions and business representatives.
They will be supported by a National Transformation Fund unit of the Treasury – the powerful new section of the Treasury that Labour will base in the North – and Treasury ministerial meetings under John McDonnell will not be confined to London as they have been under the Tories.
Labour via the Transformation Fund will address inequalities in general and health inequalities in particular:
- Give every child the best start in life
- Enable all children, young people and adults to maximise their capabilities and have control over their lives
- Create fair employment and good work for all
- Ensure healthy standard of living for all
- Create and develop healthy and sustainable places and communities
- Strengthen the role and impact of ill-health prevention.
The Conservatives have allowed these inequalities not just to continue, but to burgeon to the detriment of people in the North. Labour will reduce and then eliminate this unfairness from the very start of its tenure in government.
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