Inequalities in health characterised by huge variations in life expectancy are unacceptable in this, the 70th anniversary year of the NHS, which was created out of the ideal that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth.
Health inequality appears to have been increasing for much of the past 10 years, and indeed has done so at many points since 1948 when the NHS was formed. Yet it is not inevitable that this trend continues.
Excellent health and social care services must be available to the communities and people most in need. If health care makes a difference, but is not distributed according to need, the NHS itself widens inequalities in health. Therefore one of the acid tests of the forthcoming long term NHS Plan should be whether the poorest patients and communities benefit from the new investment promised.
We acknowledge the significance of the wider determinants of health, such as childcare, housing and education, as well as adopting practices within the NHS that promote wellness. So it must be that all parts of government and society put their shoulders to the wheel in the pursuit of health equality.
The Prime Minister called it a “burning injustice” that, “if you’re born poor, you will die on average nine years earlier than others”. We agree. Let us all work together to bring that injustice to an end.