Saturday 2 February 2019 / 9:42 AM Health / Jonathan Ashworth / NHS

Labour commits to new Health Inequalities target and reveals return of Dickensian Diseases in Tory Britain

Labour is today committing to a new health inequalities target to improve life expectancy, mortality rates and children’s health, while revealing that four key Victorian diseases have seen a 52% upturn since 2010/11- an increase of over three thousand hospital admissions per year.

Hospital admissions with a primary diagnosis of scarlet fever have rocketed from 429 in 2010/11 to 1,321 in 2017/18- a 208% increase. Scarlet fever was a leading cause of infant deaths in the early 20th Century- as memorably recorded in The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams.

Despite being virtually wiped out in the 1950s following a nationwide vaccination programme, admissions with a primary diagnosis of whooping cough have increased by 59%.

Hospital admissions with a primary diagnosis of malnutrition have increased from 531 in 2010/11 to 819 in 2017/18- a 54% increase.

Previously confined to the history books, hospital admissions with a primary diagnosis of gout have increased from 4,935 in 2010/11 to 6,824 in 2017/18- a 38% increase.

Labour’s research has been verified by the House of Commons Library.

Labour has previously pledged its ambition to make Britain’s children the healthiest in the world, and today confirms it will adopt an over-arching target to tackle health ­inequalities, taking into account the wider ­social determinants of ill-health.

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary, will today announce Labour’s goal that by 2030 life expectancy and healthy life expectancy match the best of our international peers, that avoidable mortality rates are the lowest among our international peers, and that every child matters again with a relentless focus on improving the health and welling of children.

In addition, Mr Ashworth is also announcing that progress against that target will be independently assessed every year, and that the Health and Social Care Secretary will be held accountable to Parliament, producing an annual Health Inequalities report.

Unveiling Labour’s research and new pledges, Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary, will say:

“We are facing a national emergency as widening health inequalities blight the land.

“Not only have advances in life expectancy begun to stall for the first time in a hundred years, it’s even going backwards amongst some of the poorest communities.

“For the second year in a row our infant mortality rates have worsened. That means some of the most vulnerable poorly babies – often from the most deprived backgrounds – less likely to survive than babies in Western Europe.

“The healthy life expectancy of a man born in inner city Nottingham or Leicester is 77 years compared to a man born in Rutland where it is 82 years.

“The life expectancy of those with mental health problems is reduced by between 10 and 20 years – a loss of that’s equivalent to or worse than that for heavy smoking.

“The damning truth is austerity is making our society sicker, it means the poor die younger.

“Since 2010, while food banks scatter across the land admission to hospital for malnutrition have increased by 54%

“2,539 people were diagnosed with tuberculosis last year.

“Scarlet fever cases up by 208% since 2010/11.

“Whooping cough up by 59%.

“Dickensian diseases on the rise in Tory Britain today.

“Isn’t it shameful and as socialists we must respond. Some just talk of ending burning injustice, the next Labour government will take action.

“So when even NHS bosses now admit socioeconomic inequality is costing the NHS over £4 billion a year, the next Labour Government will end austerity in the NHS, end privatisation, end the cuts to public health services, end the cuts to social care, expand prevention and tackle the wider social and commercial determinants of ill health.

“If that means Government stepping in and standing up to big commercial interests so be it.

“The explicit aim of our health and wellbeing policy will be to narrow the health inequalities in society.

“We will institute an overarching health inequalities target and insist that progress against it is independently assessed every year. And as Health Secretary I will be held accountable to Parliament and will produce an annual Health Inequalities report.

“Our goal is that by 2030 life expectancy and healthy life expectancy match the best of our international peers, that avoidable mortality rates are the lowest among our international peers, and that every child matters again with a relentless focus on improving the health and welling of children.”

“A more equal society with longer, healthier, happier lives is my lodestar.”