Public health

New national health improvement mission must reverse past trends

The NHS Confederation has renewed its call for the next parliament to lead a cross-government national mission for health improvement, following new data on smoking and alcohol usage in England.

New survey data indicates that the number of adults who reported smoking cigarettes increased in 2022 — up to 13% from 12% the year before. Similarly, the use of e-cigarettes increased from 2021 to 2022, almost doubling to 9% from 5%.

Statistics also show that 32% of men drank at levels of increasing or higher risk of alcohol-related harm, compared to 28% in 2021.

This is while more children are using e-cigarettes — 12% of children aged 8-15 had used an e-cigarette or vaping device in 2022 compared to 9% in 2019.

"If we are going to tackle the key drivers of ill health and health disparities, health leaders and their teams will need the right support and resources from the next government,” said the NHS Confederation’s policy director, Dr Layla McCay.

“That is why we are calling on the next government to lead a cross-government national mission for health improvement.”

Leaders are frustrated that plans to tackle these social determinants of health have either been shelved or delayed.

This includes the Major Conditions Strategy and the landmark Tobacco and Vapes Bill — that have both been pushed back due to the general election — as well as the Health Disparities Whitepaper that was meant to be published two years ago.

Dr McCay added: “The government must recognise the influence ICSs can have in their areas by helping bridge the gaps to ensure that everyone has equal access to the resources they need to quit smoking and lead healthier, longer lives.

“That is why we produced a toolkit for system leaders to use to embed action on health inequalities into integrated care systems.”

Image credit: iStock

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NHE May/June 2024

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