THE UK GOVERNMENT has announced, in response to a written question from Marsha de Cordova, Labour MP for Battersea, that the long-awaited Health Disparities White Paper will not be going ahead. Instead, the Government has announced it will publish a Major Conditions Strategy, with an interim report due to be published this summer.

The Government says the Strategy will tackle cancers, cardiovascular disease, including stroke and diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, dementia, mental ill health and musculoskeletal conditions.

Commenting on the announcement, Gwen Nightingale and Katherine Merrifield of the Health Foundation, wrote: “This has removed all the remaining momentum behind the health inequalities agenda: history shows us that focusing on medical conditions means activity gravitates towards early diagnosis and treatment within the NHS. This is critical activity, but it will not address the factors that shape our health and create inequality in the first place, including our early life, the work we do and the income we earn, the education we receive and the homes and places we live in.”

Also responding to the news, Dr Camilla Kingdon, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said:It is truly disappointing to hear that the government has abandoned plans to publish its Health Disparities White Paper. In its place, we have yet another plan to publish a strategy when what we really need is urgent action. As paediatricians we know how desperately real change is needed to tackle entrenched and ever-growing child health inequalities across the UK.

“Health inequalities are estimated to cost the NHS an extra £4.8 billion a year and recent findings from the ONS show that since early 2020, almost 400,000 people exited the jobs market with long-term health problems. The Government knows there is a problem, yet we still have no clear strategy that considers the role of every department and every available policy in tackling health inequalities, including those that start in childhood.

“We are deeply concerned at the apparent lack of focus on children and young people in the newly announced Major Conditions Strategy, which seems more focused on treatment than prevention. By abandoning the Health Disparities White Paper, we have lost the singular focus needed to effectively address health inequalities. By truly valuing all children, whatever circumstances they are born into, we create a healthier citizen, less dependent on the state in the future and more able to rise to the many challenges of modern-day life.”

* Read the blog on this issue on the Health Foundation website here.

* Read the UK Government announcement here.

* Sources: The Health Foundation and The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health