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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.

Public Health
Launching a White Paper on public health in England, Mr Dobson said the government also aimed to reduce the health inequalities between the rich and the poor.

He accused the previous Conservative government of exacerbating the problems with their policies

The BBC's Niall Dickson: "A series of targets for the year 2010"
He said: "We want to help make sure that the standard of health of the people they (the Tories) represent in Surrey or Sutton Coldfield is shared by the people we represent in Barnsley or Bethnal Green. We want to end the divisions that mar our society."

Mr Dobson outlined four specific targets contained in the paper, 'Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation':

  • To reduce deaths from cancer among people under 75 by at least a fifth
  • To reduce deaths from coronary heart disease among people under 75 by at least two-fifths
  • To reduce deaths by accidents by at least a fifth and serious injury by at least a tenth
  • To reduce suicides by at least a fifth

Mr Dobson said the targets - to be achieved by 2010 - would be "backed by action".

Health Secretary Frank Dobson: "We will see a healthier nation as a result of this White Paper"
He said cancer screening would be beefed up, and equipment modernised.

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.

[ image:  ]
A Health Skills programme will be launched to teach first aid skills and health information to young people, and an Expert Patients scheme will enable people with chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes to more effectively manage their own conditions.

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

[ image: Frank Dobson says the government is doing much to improve health]
Frank Dobson says the government is doing much to improve health
Mr Dobson said a range of government policies would also help to improve health, including the introduction of a minimum wage, family tax credits and the New Deal to get people back into work.

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".

[ image:  ]
He said: "We welcome any genuine measures to improve the health of the people of the UK. But we really did deserve better than this.

"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."

[ image: Dr Sarah Taylor believes targets are a good idea]
Dr Sarah Taylor believes targets are a good idea
Dr Sarah Taylor, chair of the British Medical Association Public Health Committee, said the medical profession welcomed the new targets.

"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.

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Internet Links


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