Trusts urged to follow NICE guidance to cut health inequalities
Primary care trusts (PCTs) should follow NICE public health guidance to help reduce health inequalities across England, as a report by the Audit Commission reveals a widening gap between the poor and those who are better off.
The Healthy Balance report, published today, acknowledges that the overall standards of health have improved in England with cuts in infant mortality and increases in life expectancy, but warns that significant health inequalities still remain.
This comes despite the NHS allocating £21 billion to PCTs to help tackle health inequalities. PCTs in deprived areas have also received more money per head than those in wealthier areas in an attempt to readdress these inequalities.
Andy McKeon, the Audit Commission's managing director, said: “Variation in
the health of people living in different parts of the country remains stark. Comparisons can be striking. While teenage pregnancy drops by 38 per cent in one town, it rises by 14 per cent in a neighbouring town.
“Billions are directed to deprived areas. But it is not always clear how much has actually been spent on reducing health inequalities, and what the impact of this or that programme has been. Progress is often disappointing.”
The report makes an argument for ring-fenced public health funds to ensure the money is spent on combating health inequalities, and highlights that NICE has produced a range of public health guidance that can be used by local bodies to address health inequalities.
So far, NICE has issued 22 pieces of guidance on public health matters, ranging from school-based interventions on alcohol to promoting physical activity in the workplace, with a further 34 pieces of guidance on the way.
Professor Mike Kelly, director of the Public Health Excellence Centre at NICE
said: “This report points to the many pieces of public health guidance that NICE has produced. Our work provides evidence to show which actions and interventions improve health in a number of areas, particularly those diseases which kill a disproportionate number of people living in the greatest disadvantage and deprivation.
“What we recommend is cost effective and very good value for money in terms of public expenditure. Our guidance also explicitly considers the impact of our recommendations on health inequalities.”
One of the most significant things healthcare providers could do to tackle health inequalities in a cost effective way would be to comply fully with the NICE public health guidance, added Professor Kelly.
11 March 2010
This page was last updated: 13 April 2010