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NICE guidance can reduce health inequalities

Primary Care Trusts are being urged to follow NICE guidance in a bid to reduce health inequalities across England

Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) are being urged to follow National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidance in a bid to reduce health inequalities across England.

Despite the NHS allocating £21bn to PCTs to help tackle health inequalities, and PCTs in deprived areas receiving more money per head than those in wealthier areas, an Audit Commission report, Healthy Balance, has revealed a widening gap between rich and poor.

The report shows that reductions in infant mortality and improved life expectancy have resulted in an overall increase in the standards of health in England, but warns that there are still significant inequalities in health.

Andy McKeon, the Audit Commission's managing director, said: "Variation in the health of people living in different parts of the country remains stark. Comparisons can be striking. While teenage pregnancy drops by 38 per cent in one town, it rises by 14 per cent in a neighbouring town.

"Billions [of pounds] are directed to deprived areas. But it is not always clear how much has actually been spent on reducing health inequalities, and what the impact of this or that programme has been. Progress is often disappointing," he continued.

The report highlights that it is difficult to see a direct link between spending and improvement, or to measure a direct return on investment.

NICE's public health guidance documents are referenced in the report, which recommends compliance with the guidance as one of the most cost effective ways in which to significantly tackle health inequalities.

Professor Mike Kelly, director of the Public Health Excellence Centre at NICE said: "This report points to the many pieces of public health guidance that NICE has produced. Our work provides evidence to show which actions and interventions improve health in a number of areas, particularly those diseases which kill a disproportionate number of people living in the greatest disadvantage and deprivation.

"What we recommend is cost effective and very good value for money in terms of public expenditure. Our guidance also explicitly considers the impact of our recommendations on health inequalities." 

11th March 2010

From: Healthcare

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