Dobson targets the nations health

8 Jul 99
New government measures to improve public health and save 300,000 lives in the next ten years will fail unless there is a 'massive shift' of funds to poor areas, the NHS Confederation said this week.

09 July 1999

Launching the public health white paper, Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation, on July 6, Health Secretary Frank Dobson said the government aimed to improve the health of everyone, but particularly the worst-off. He set targets that focus on the four main killers: cancer, coronary heart disease and stroke, accidents and mental illness.

Dobson said deaths from cancer, suicide and accidents should fall by a fifth by 2010. Annual death rates from heart attacks should be reduced by two-fifths.

The package includes investing £4m to provide 400 defibrillators at railway stations, airports and other public places to cut deaths from heart attacks.

Dobson also ordered a report into the safety of water fluoridation, which will be completed by next April. If the experts agree it is safe, councils, rather than health authorities, will take the lead in negotiating with water companies. The government will then place a legal obligation on water companies to fluoridate 'where there is strong local support for doing so'.

The confederation said the white paper struck a sensible balance between government intervention and self-help. But it added that if the NHS is to reduce health inequalities, funds will have to be moved from health authorities and Primary Care Groups in affluent areas.

'Unless there is a radical joint review of the funding formula for local authorities and health authorities in favour of areas of poverty, the situation would continue to favour the more affluent areas,' it added.

The biggest trade union, Unison, called the white paper 'an ambitious agenda'. General secretary Rodney Bickerstaffe said: 'The white paper should have included a national target for reducing health inequalities. This agenda can only be achieved with properly resourced public services.'

The health secretary said the service will launch an on-line version of NHS Direct, the telephone helpline staffed by nurses, this autumn.


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