10 year plan could save 40,000 in next pandemic

Cross party group calls for £3 billion intervention fund to build back better health

The All Party-Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Longevity publishes its report Levelling Up Health, with bold, actionable proposals to address the shocking statistic that there would have been 40,000 fewer deaths in the UK if the national Covid mortality rate had been as low as in the least deprived places.[1]

Covid-19 has had a devastating impact on the UK, exposing our nation’s poor health and our health inequalities: 90% of those who died with Covid had a significant poor health condition.  The most deprived places had much higher Covid mortality rates; in Blackburn and Darwen 345 per 100,000 died, five times more than South Cambridgeshire with 68 per 100,000.

The Group argues for a new approach to improve the nation’s health. Old ideologies that have impeded public health progress must be discarded and the monopolisation of the NHS in our health policy must be ended. The report calls for a Ten-Year Plan with 5 key elements:

  1. Ambition – commit to become a much healthier and resilient nation, to increase healthy life expectancy by 5 years by 2035 and reduce health inequalities, as in the Manifesto.
  2. Focus – on the places with the worst health and on five major and tractable health issues – smoking, obesity, clean food, clean air, and healthy children.
  3. Leadership – make the case for change, call for action across government and society and challenge those who damage our health.
  4. Health Improvement Fund – to improve the health of communities with the worst health and who suffered most from the pandemic. Sixty local authorities should be offered a five-year partnership to improve their health, worth £10 million a year on average, totalling £600 million a year. 
  5. Structures – No 10 needs to promote the goal and ensure all Government departments and agencies engage strongly. NHS Integrated Care Systems should set ambitious targets on health improvement.

Government and society must also maximise the great contributions that science, technology, and data can make to improve our health and radically reduce the harms from some additives products and marketing that damage our health.

Damian Green, Chair of the APPG on Longevity, outlined the challenge faced, “We need to confront ideologues on both sides. Those on the left who argue that the state must be responsible for all health matters, and that the private sector has ‘no place in health’, and those on the right who oppose public health measures as an infringement of liberty. We need to transform the lives of disadvantaged people and areas, so that they enjoy the health prosperity that is already available to millions of our citizens.”

The pressures on the UK’s health system have been laid bare over the past 12 months through the COVID pandemic with many non-essential services having to be reduced or cut altogether, it has also provided a window on the health of the nation and how issues such as obesity can leave us susceptible to greater risk of complications should we fall ill.

“All of society and all parties must seize this moment to improve our health, it is vital for our children and our society,” said Labour peer Lord Filkin. “We show how in this report, clear priorities for action, the need to challenge and change ideologies and organisations that harm our children and our health and a cross party and cross society commitment for a healthier nation. It is essential and possible to level up health across our country.”

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Last modified: April 8, 2021

Written by 11:59 am Health