This week the European Parliament’s Environment and Public Health Committee adopted a resolution on reducing health inequalities in the EU, whilst in the UK Conservative-led reforms to healthcare could see these inequalities widen.
Across Europe people in the lowest socio-economic groups can expect to live on average 8 years less than those in the highest socio-economic groups. Unemployed people are especially at risk, and as the coalition cuts kick in more and more people will find themselves in this vulnerable group.
I have put a lot of work into this resolution because we need to send a clear message to all European governments that during these difficult economic times we must keep equal access to quality healthcare as a priority. When amending the report I focused on the need to tackle obesity, tobacco and alcohol harm, all of which affect lower socio-economic groups disproportionately. I also called on governments to invest in employment and housing conditions, which have a huge effect on people’s health.
Unfortunately it doesn’t look like the British government will be paying much attention to these widespread calls to protect healthcare. Andrew Lansley’s reforms of the NHS are absurd. Making GPs into administrators for practices will mean they’ll have less time to do what they trained to do, which is treat patients, not fill in ordering forms and file paperwork.
It may make little difference to those who can afford to pay, but for the majority of ordinary people who rely on our NHS these reforms could be devastating. Here in the European Parliament Labour MEPs will continue to put pressure on the UK and all EU governments to remember that healthcare is not something we can afford to cut.