Sharon Hodgson MP: Health inequalities leave the North with short life expectancy

Your life expectancy may vary depending on where you were born.
Your life expectancy may vary depending on where you were born.

Life expectancy in the UK has always gradually increased.

Between 1920 and 2010, life expectancy increased from 55 to 78 years in men, and from 59 to 82 years in women.

However, since the Conservative-Lib Dem Coalition came into office in 2011, the health of people in England and Wales has stopped improving for the first time in well over a century.

This slowdown in improvements is an appalling consequence of this government’s failure to improve the chances of the worst-off, as years of underfunding in health and social care take their toll.

The North/South divide remains as relevant as ever in this case, and further highlights inequalities between the regions.

For men and women, the healthy life expectancy at birth is the highest in the South East, at 65.9 years for men and 66.6 years for women.

Yet here in the North East, where life expectancy is at its lowest in the country, the healthy life expectancy for men is 59.7 years and for women it is 59.8 years, significantly lower than the England average.

That means that the inequality gap in healthy life expectancy at birth for the South East and North East is 6.2 years for men and 6.8 years for women.

Life expectancy here in the North East is increasing faster than anywhere else in the country, but it is simply not good enough that once again the North is being left behind.

That is why in a recent Westminster Hall debate, I called on the Minister to address these health inequalities by committing vital funding to public health services.

Without this funding, people are missing out on accessing crucial services that could help them live healthier lives for longer.

An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure, which is why as the Shadow Minister for Public Health, I am committed to ensuring our health and care system is properly funded so that all children are given the best possible start in life, and older people are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve, no matter where they live.