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Public health reform ‘will widen health inequalities’

6 March 2012

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The Health Bill is a “massive distraction” to the public health agenda, claims government advisor Professor Sir Michael Marmot. 

Speaking at a Royal College of Nursing conference last month (17 February), University College of London’s Marmot told MiP he fears the government’s public health agenda will further widen health inequalities. 

“The health inequalities for those people at a lower end of the hierarchy have not been narrowing and given that conditions are getting worse, I have real concerns that health inequalities might increase,” he said. 

Marmot predicted any rise would take time to become evident and would be of a “sluggish” nature. 

He acknowledged the alignment of public health with local government “could be a good thing” but warned the reorganisation of the NHS caused by the government’s Health Bill served to be a “massive distraction”. 

“I understand that general practice staff are feeling disillusioned and demoralised by the Health Bill and the government’s pension reforms,” said Marmot. 

“While I know everyone is at a low ebb, there is hope for public health if NHS staff remember why they got into the profession in the first place.” 

In a statement to MiP, a DH spokesperson said the Health Bill is necessary to free up crucial public health funds. 

“The Health Bill will hand power to GPs in London, put patients at the heart of the NHS, and reduce needless bureaucracy,” said the DH spokesperson. 

“Public health funding will be ring-fenced for the first time. And without the Bill we couldn’t remove two layers of bureaucracy and reinvest £4.5bn in patient care. 

“The independent NHS Future Forum found broad support for the principles of our plans.”

Marmot’s work in 2010 on health inequalities was incorporated into the government’s public health reforms.

By Louise Naughton