Life expectancy gap between richest and poorest is acid test of NHS Plan, PM is told

The government must reduce the life expectancy gap between rich and poor if its £20bn plan to boost the NHS can be considered a success, experts have warned.

The test was set ahead of the 70th anniversary of the NHS, during a health inequality summit that included some of the UK’s best known third sector and public health organisations.

A declaration issued by the participants reminds Theresa May of her first speech as Prime Minister in which she called it a “burning injustice” that, “if you’re born poor, you will die on average nine years earlier than others”.

A spokesperson for the National Pharmacy Association, which hosted the event, said:

“The NHS 10 year plan is an opportunity to redouble efforts to reduce health inequality – within and beyond the health service.  The signatories to this declaration want to push health inequality decisively up the agenda of politicians, the NHS and wider society.”

The declaration calls for “all parts of government and society to put their shoulders to the wheel in the pursuit of health equality”.

Currently, the life expectancy gap between males in the most and least deprived localities is nine years.  For women the figure is seven years.  The gap for ‘healthy life expectancy’ is 19 years for men and 20 years for women.

The full statement reads as follows:


Let’s work together to end health inequality

Inequalities in health characterised by huge variations in life expectancy are unacceptable in this, the 70th anniversary 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.  But 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 healthcare 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.


The signatories are: Nitin Sodha, Chair National Pharmacy Association, Lord Victor Adebowale CBE, Chief Executive Turning Point, Jim Minton, Chief Executive Toynbee Hall, Stephen Watkins, Vice President UK Faculty of Public Health, Rachel Power, Chief Executive Patients Association, Merron Simpson, Chief Executive New NHS Alliance, Dr Adam Todd, Reader in Pharmaceutical Public Health Newcastle University, David Lock QC, Paul Farmer CBE, Chief Executive Mind,  Bridget Turner, Director of Policy and Care Improvement Diabetes UK, Andrew Kaye, Head of Policy & Influence Macmillan Cancer Support, Matina Loizou, Co-Chair Prescription Charges Coalition, Dr James Noyes, Respublica.