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Government slammed over health gap between rich and poor

16 March 2009

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The health gap between rich and poor is being made worse by the government’s “wanton, large-scale experimentation” on the public, according to the Commons Treasury Committee.

It says that “unethical”, inadequate and ineffective policy-making is undermining attempts to narrow the gap, with “potentially damaging consequences”.

Committee chairman Kevin Barron said that members were “shocked” by what they have found, and dismissed as “hype” government claims that it is tackling health inequalities in deprived areas.

The report says that although overall health levels have improved over the past 10 years, the gap between social classes has widened as the health of the rich improves more quickly than the poor.

It says that ministers and officials have not made even basic calculations about how much was being spent on the issue, despite claims in the 2000 NHS plan that reducing inequalities by 10% by 2010 is a priority.

The British Medical Association backed the report’s findings. Said Dr Vivienne Nathanson, its head of science and ethics: “There is no bottomless pit of resources to tackle health inequalities so it is essential that the government spends taxpayers’ money wisely and on projects that will work.”

Copyright © Press Association 2009

Health Committee report

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“The government has failed to take an overall view of the impact of its health policies. Some of these high-profile policies, such as Choose and Book and extended opening hours, disproportionately favour the well-off and so tend to increase inequality. A radical reappraisal of all health policy is required, with equality at its heart” – Gerry, Coventry