Friday, 2 July 2010

“Poor in UK dying 10 years earlier than rich, despite years of government action”

That’s a headline from the Guardian website today. It is sub-titled: “Department of Health and NHS criticised for making too little progress on tackling key barometer of inequality”. I think the point is being missed, big time!

Medical science and the health service have both come a long way in my lifetime. I think the NHS do a great job under the circumstances, and that’s not damning with faint praise. The NHS can only do so much on the life expectancy front. Throwing more money, resources and new procedures at ‘the problem’ I suspect would not really yield a significant return. It is not an NHS problem. There is a clue to the proverbial ‘elephant in the room’ in the Guardian headline. It is the poor who are dying. The poor! Perhaps some of it is down to the standard of health care delivered, but I expect the greatest reason for the poor dying earlier than the rich is because they are poor. Poverty is a curable disease, but I don’t think it will be cured by a wonder-drug from some mega-rip-off-pharmaceutical company. Poverty might be a health issue but it is surely outside of the remit of the NHS.

Whilst we have poverty in this country, and whilst we continue to lack the courage to tackle the great wealth inequalities, the poor will continue to die prematurely, prisons will remain full, crime rates will soar, drug and alcohol dependency will continue to wreak havoc and social cohesion will remain a far off dream.

Equality saves lives.

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