Council must share responsibility for damning report

Date published: 22 March 2008

The former chairwoman of Rochdale Primary Care Trust has urged Rochdale Council to share responsibility for a damning Department of Health report, which reveals that health inequalities are widening across the Borough.

The Government’s annual report shows that targets to reduce health inequalities in Rochdale will not be met and Debbie Abrahams said this reflected poorly on partnership working between Rochdale Council and Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale Primary Care Trust.

“As the statutory agency responsible for improving health and reducing health inequalities, Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale Primary Care Trust has a direct role to ensure access to health care based on need,” said Ms Abrahams.

“Reducing health inequalities should drive all the PCT does in terms of what, where, and how health services are delivered through GPs, health centres or hospitals.

“The PCT also has a responsibility to work in partnership with Rochdale Council in particular to address the causes of health inequalities. The Council must share in the responsibility of failing to address health inequalities in Rochdale; in spite of a duty of partnership they have done little to tackle this agenda. In the space of a week, for example, we have had one report saying that in some parts of Rochdale people are too ill to work with the highest level of benefit claims in Britain and another saying we’re going to die early. The Council has provided a woefully inadequate response on what should be done about this.”

She added that Rochdale Council’s strategic plan, which sets out their key priorities, included a number of pledges to improve health and well being. Promises to “reduce health inequalities”, “support healthy lifestyles” and “create a healthy environment” needed to be re-visited and given fresh momentum, she argued, so that evidence of progress could be seen.

Rochdale’s Labour Parliamentary Candidate, Simon Danczuk, who recently appointed Ms Abrahams as Health Advisor to his Campaign team, added that the scale of the challenge outlined in the report needed to be recognised, and that all local political parties should make this a priority issue.

“The report shows that men and women in Rochdale will die earlier compared to the England average and that the 2010 target to reduce this gap in life expectancy will not be met,” he said.

“Another target to reduce the gap between children who are less than one year old and from poorer families dying early compared to richer families will also not be met.”

Ms Abrahams also pointed to other inequalities not picked up in the report: “Across Rochdale people in the lowest income groups live approximately five years less than the highest income groups, the rate of benefit claimants with poor mental health in Rochdale is almost double the England average and approximately one in nine Rochdale people report being in ‘poor health’ compared with one in 13 for the England average.”

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