Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah today called on the government to do more to tackle health inequalities between the North East and the rest of England. Ms Onwurah secured a debate in Westminster Hall today (Tuesday 24th January) on the subject of Health Inequalities in the North East, but the Government Health Minister Anne Milton refused to answer questions on changing funding allocations.
Despite having some of the best healthcare in the country, residents of the North East suffer from large health disparities in a number of areas. The Government has changed the PCT funding formula so less money is given to areas with high health inequalities. In addition to the funding changes, the Health Select Committee today warned that the Health and Social Care Bill is likely to widen health inequalities.
Ms Onwurah said:
“Today Anne Milton again refused to answer questions about Government reforms to the NHS. I will continue to press the Government on this. As an MP I believe my primary priority has to be the health and wellbeing of my constituents.
Despite The Newcastle Hospital Trust being in the top 10% of best performing Trusts in the UK, in Newcastle we are more likely to die early from cancer, heart disease and stroke. We tend to die younger, are more obese as children and more likely to die from the cold as pensioners. We suffer more from the diseases of our industrial legacy, like Asbestosis.
In the short term Government reforms are diverting funds away from patient care with an impact on waiting times; those who can afford to will tend to seek private healthcare but those on low incomes will be unable to.
In the longer term the Health and Social Care Bill is about privatisation of the NHS. It is an important missed opportunity to actually focus on the real issue of the wider determinants of health in this country.”