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A million years of "life" to be saved by 2012

The Royal College of Nursing has signed up to a pledge to save a million years of life by 2012 in East Lancashire at a high level summit attended by the NHS Chief Executive Mr David Nicholson.

RCN regional officer Caroline Collins attended the summit, where over 100 delegates signed a commitment to reducing health inequality and preventing premature deaths.

At the summit Ms Collins highlighted to Mr Nicholson that the attending delegates were collectively responsible for over 100,000 employees in the East Lancashire area and stressed the importance of a partnership between employers, their working practices and the health and wellbeing of employees in the local community.  

The summit was organised by East Lancashire PCT, whose chair Kathy Reade painted a picture of huge health inequality and privation in her opening address.

She said: “Some of our people are living in areas of great stress. They live where loan sharks and drug dealers hold sway and they are literally dying before their time. We cannot be complicit with this injustice, or these outrages.  

“We speak of obesity in children and it is a problem, but there are also children in a school in this area where there is third world undernourishment and rickets. There are children who are so desperate with their loveless lives that they harm themselves or try, each benefits day to stop their mother from overdosing.  There are areas where GPs spend 60% of surgery time listening to depressed, anxious patients where crime and disorder define their lives, where the quickest escape route is ten pints of strong lager or crack cocaine.

“These people need our assistance to get out of the health trap - the trap that means where you are born determines the quality and length of your life.

“The partnerships we have in place are already improving health but today is a stake in the ground for step change. We need to pull together to prevent ill health in the first place and to develop conditions for wellbeing.”

David Nicholson, who has headed the NHS for the past 12 months, said that the North West faced fantastic challenges.  There had already been some improvement in acute care but the real challenges in the 21st century were tackling health inequalities.

He commented: “This event is an opportunity to make a step change. To save one million lives is going to be a tough challenge. I am absolutely with you and we will do everything we can at the centre to help you.”

By the close of the event over 100 people had signed the following pledge:

“We care deeply about improving the health and wellbeing of the people in East Lancashire and are committed to making a difference.  

“Working in partnership, we will reduce health inequalities by making measurable improvements and by raising aspirations in our local communities.”