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Health secretary acts to tackle health inequalities

In a speech to the Institute for Public Policy Research today, Health Secretary Alan Johnson launched the Progress and Next Steps document, with details of £34 million to fund programmes to support local communities.

The document identifies how the challenging PSA target for health inequalities can be met by 2010. Record spending in the NHS in England will increase from just over £90bn in 2007-08 to almost £110bn in 2010-11.

The government has already set out proposals to improve access to primary care, including £250m for the most deprived primary care trusts to procure 112 new GP practices and to enable every primary care trust in the country to develop a GP-led health centre, open from 8am in the morning to 8pm at night, 7 days a week.

In addition to this, Progress and Next Steps announces £34m additional spending for programmes 2008-09, including:

  • £19m to support local communities in disadvantaged areas working to improve life expectancy and reduce infant mortality quickly in support of the national target. This includes rolling out the Communities for Health Programme to every area; working with communities to develop capacity to support individual behavioural change for healthier lifestyles; direct support to PCTs and local government; and establishing a new National Support Team to address high infant mortality in disadvantaged groups and areas.
  • £15m focused on those with the greatest need including children, those living and working in disadvantaged communities and those living with mental health issues. This will also include additional money to provide support for healthier lives.

Speaking about these spending programmes, Mr Johnson said: "Health in the most disadvantaged parts of the country is improving rapidly, but the relative gap is growing and we will do more to reduce it. Inequalities in health go down to the root of where people are born and live, and it's time we set that right."

He added: "To make more progress we need to recognise and accept that health inequalities are everyone's business - not just an issue for the NHS, but for government and society as a whole."

Further initiatives will include:

  • A revised Health Inequalities National Intervention Tool to help all areas identify local health inequalities and ways to tackle them with specific actions.
  • A new National Support Team for Alcohol will be established, with further support for areas with the biggest problems with alcohol-related hospital admissions.
  • The development of a Child Health Strategy with DCSF, as announced in the Children's Plan, to be published later this year.

Health Inequalities: Progress and Next Steps can be downloaded here