Headlines: November 25th, 2002

A new funding formula for local health services to balance areas of high cost and high need will be introduced as part of a campaign to switch the emphasis in the National Health Service to prevention rather than cure.The Government’s Cross Cutting Review of Health Inequalities includes a series of measures which it is hoped will reduce the numbers of unnecessary deaths through ill-health to reduce health inequalities.

They include an increased drive to combat smoking with stronger health warnings on cigarette packets and a cash-back agreement with the pharmaceutical industry to encourage the prescription of products designed to help smokers to give up. The new funding formula for local services will be accompanied by a development of performance indicators to include infant and preventable mortality.

Dr Peter Tiplady, the chairman of the BMA’s Public Health Committee said:   “The fact is the poorer you are the more the likely you are to get sick and die earlier – this is a disgrace in 21st century Britain.”

Health secretary Alan Milburn said, “The NHS will put renewed emphasis on prevention as well as cure so that we develop health services and not just sickness services. We simply can no longer regard prevention as playing second fiddle to treatment.”

The Health Development Agency has welcomed the emphasis being put on combating cancer, reducing heart disease and helping smokers to quit. A spokesman said, ” Smoking has been identified as the primary reason for the gap in life expectancy between rich and poor. Unless we make changes and  break this vicious circle, the future health service will still struggle to treat the ill-health that could have been partly prevented now.”