Thursday, July 8, 1999 Published at 10:46 GMT 11:46 UK
Health drive to save lives
People will be encouraged to take more exercise
Health Secretary Frank Dobson has announced ambitious targets to save 300,000 lives over the next 10 years by cutting deaths from cancer, heart disease, accidents and suicide.
He accused the previous Conservative government of exacerbating the problems with their policies
Mr Dobson outlined four specific targets contained in the paper, 'Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation':
Mr Dobson said the targets - to be achieved by 2010 - would be "backed by action".
There would be specific action to improve people's diet, and to cut smoking - the biggest single preventable cause of death in the UK.
Mr Dobson said the role of health visitors, community and school nurses and midwives would be extended.
The Health Education Authority is to be replaced with a "hard hitting" new Health Development Agency with a wider and more influential role.
In addition, the government is to commission an independent report on the health benefits of fluoridation of water supplies.
Should the report conclude fluoridation is a good idea, health authorities will be given new powers to insist fluoride is added to supplies.
Wide ranging action
He said the government was also spending £15bn over three years to tackle the problem of homelessness, a major cause of ill health.
But Shadow Health Secretary Dr Liam Fox said the White Paper was big on gimmickry and "short on action".
"It is one thing to have slogans and good photo opportunities for ministers, it is quite another to actually put in place the mechanisms that will improve health care.
"The point has been made about wanting to reduce heart disease, but I spoke to surgeons last week who said they were putting off cardiac surgery because they had been told to get the waiting lists down and it was quicker and cheaper to do so by dealing with hernias."
"They are all issues that we know are really important, the key things that cause illness and death. Giving targets concentrates people's minds. It makes sure that these are treated as a priority."
The King's Fund, a leading healthcare watchdog, welcomed the fact that the government had kept to a small number of focussed national targets, and had built in local flexibility.