Preventative measures to stop people becoming ill will be one of the key tools used to drive out inequalities in the NHS.New figures published in an interim report – State of the Nation’s health – health inequalities – show that the gap between health needs and health services also remains stubbornly wide. The life expectancy of a boy born into the bottom social class is more than nine years shorter than a boy born into the top social class.
Inequalities of provision mean that although the incidence of a condition such as heart disease is highest in poorer areas, in general rates of treatment are not.
Health Secretary Alan Milburn has announced that as part of the National Plan for the NHS there will be a new emphasis on prevention and on early intervention.
It will set out a step change from the health prevention policies of the past – advertising and health promotion – towards active interventions around cancer and coronary heart disease, the biggest killers.
This will mean more check ups and screening programmes, and more direct help for people at risk from heart disease to stick to diet and exercise programmes and to give up smoking, not just advice.