The SNP government has no idea how much money it has spent on tackling health inequalities – despite it having been Nicola Sturgeon’s “top priority” for more than a decade.
The admission came following a parliamentary question by Scottish Conservative MSP Adam Tomkins.
It was prompted by a claim by Ms Sturgeon back in 2008 – when she was health secretary – that her government had “made tackling health inequalities our top priority”.
However, in response to the question, public health minister Joe Fitzpatrick said: “The Scottish Government does not seek to dictate a single concept of prevention and does not require accounts based on that.”
Repeated statistics show how Scots living in poorer communities have significantly poorer health than their counterparts in wealthier areas.
Life expectancy is 10 years shorter for males in areas of deprivation, while cancer rates are significantly higher in less wealthy zones.
Smoking and alcohol consumption rates are greater among people living in poverty, while survival chances against a range of diseases are more remote.
Scottish Conservative MSP Adam Tomkins said:
“Nicola Sturgeon made a clear commitment that tackling health inequalities would be her top priority.
“Like me, she represents the city of Glasgow – a city where health inequalities remain stubbornly persistent, and where mortality is higher than similar post-industrial cities elsewhere in the UK, such as Liverpool and Manchester.
“Yet, more than a decade on, her SNP government can’t even tell us how much money has been invested in this so-called priority area.
“People in poorer areas are still dying younger, they’re still far more likely to be struck by disease and – when that illness occurs – they’re less likely to survive it.
“This is an SNP government which might talk a good game on inequality and poverty, but the reality is that it’s failing to deliver on its promises.
“It’s a tired administration – which has only ever had one focus – and it needs to be replaced at the next opportunity.”
Notes to editors:
Nicola Sturgeon said: “We have made tackling health inequalities our top priority,” in a key Scottish Government document in 2008.
But the Scottish Government admits, more than a decade on, it still doesn’t know the cost of this:
Index Heading: Health and Social Care
Adam Tomkins (Glasgow) (Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party): To ask the Scottish Government how much has been allocated to NHS initiatives aimed at reducing health inequalities in each of the last 10 years, broken down by initiative.
Joe FitzPatrick: There is a large range of actions and activities delivered across NHSScotland which contributes, directly and indirectly, to tackling health inequalities. As we noted in our response to the Health and Sports Committee's recent report on preventative action and public health, the Scottish Government does not seek to dictate a single concept of prevention and does not require accounts based on that.
Our approach to health inequalities is across a significant number of strategies and policies which – from minimum unit pricing for alcohol to proposals to restrict the marketing and promotion of high fat, salt and sugar foods right through to the reporting of Integration Authorities – are clearly about maximising quality and sustainability in current care arrangements and preventing future harm. It is not, therefore, possible to estimate spend on reducing health inequalities.