The week of the 65th anniversary of the NHS, NHS England reaffirms its commitment to reducing health gap

The week of the 65th anniversary of the National Health Service (5 July 2013), NHS England has reaffirmed its commitment to reducing the gap in life expectancy  – over 11 years for men and 10 for women – between the richest and poorest in the country.

This focus on equal access and support from the NHS is based on its founding principle of providing a comprehensive health service to all, free at the point of need.  While the wider social determinants of health are crucially important in creating inequalities, the NHS is committed to playing its full part alongside other parties to support longer, healthier lives for all.

Currently, life expectancy is at a record high but there remain significant gaps across the country:

  • Life expectancy for a woman living in Manchester is estimated as 79.1 years and 89.8 years if living in Kensington and Chelsea – a gap of 10.7 years
  • The gap for men is 11.5 years, with the life expectancy of a man living in Blackpool estimated at 73.6 years and 85.1 years if living in Kensington and Chelsea
  • Between 2006 and 2010 this gap worsened by 1.4 years for men and 1.9 years for women
  • These differences mean up to 2.5million years of life are lost each year

Professor Steve Field, Deputy Medical Director with responsibility for addressing health inequalities at NHS England said: “We need to use the 65th anniversary of the NHS to stay connected to our simple but powerful founding principle that everyone counts and the NHS belongs to us all.

“Over the past 65 years the NHS has evolved to respond to individual need and reach out to more and more people and it is important to recognise and share the successes of these innovative and often inspiring people and services.

“But we need to do more in health and care to fundamentally tackle the unacceptable health inequalities that remain in England today, staying true to the principles and values of the NHS and its Constitution.”

Timely access to NHS services is another key health inequality, with the homeless 40 times less likely to be registered with a GP and Gypsies and travellers being twice as likely to have poorer health, across a wide range of outcomes.

Professor Field continued:

“During the last year I have visited numerous examples of wonderful care – such as the innovative GP practices and medical centres, York Street in Leeds and Luther Street in Oxford, providing wonderful holistic care for vulnerable people, the inspirational work at The London Pathway which is improving care and saving the lives of homeless people and most recently a trip to the Hope Citadel Service in Oldham which was set up by a medical student and has successfully delivered great care in a deprived part of Manchester.”

In its 65th year, the NHS touches more lives than ever before with over 1 million patient interactions every 36 hours and over 1,800 babies born in an NHS hospital every day. The principle of a comprehensive health service has remained unchanged over the decades and universal healthcare is one of the core values of British society[1].  Yet at the same time, the NHS has evolved to take advantage of new medical and scientific developments providing a diverse range of services outside of hospital settings and complex treatments that were not conceivable 65 years ago.

From 1 July, the NHS is profiling those people, services and organisations that are transforming and shaping future health and care with a particular focus on those innovative services that are tackling health inequalities in communities across England.

NHS clinicians and leaders will meet some of the people involved in delivering and designing services in and with local communities to find out first-hand how they are tackling issues such as substance misuse and homelessness and improving the lives of people with long term conditions, mental health illnesses, physical disabilities and other health conditions.

To find out more visit the NHS at 65 section on NHS Choices or take a look at 65 images of the inspiring people, services and organisations that are transforming and shaping future health and care on our Pinterest Board.

Twitter users can search and share using #nhs65

[1] A recent poll by Ipsos Mori for British Future’s State of the Nation report shows that the 65th anniversary of the NHS is a greater source of pride for British people than other contemporary key anniversaries, including the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation and the 60th anniversary of the discovery of DNA. The same report confirms the status of the NHS as a leading symbol of national pride, with people from all backgrounds and across social classes ranking the NHS higher than the monarchy, the army or the Olympics.