Elected mayor must act to narrow health inequalities gap urge health organisations

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Tackling the glaring health inequalities that exist in London must be made a priority for the Mayor of London, three leading health organisations will urge today.

A health manifesto calling on the elected mayor to put health at the top of his agenda will be handed to Simon Hughes, Darren Johnson, Ken Livingstone and Steve Norris at a health hustings event in the city. The briefing, jointly produced by the Royal College of Nursing, London NHS Confederation and The King's Fund, will ask the successful candidate to use his powers to tackle the widening health inequalities that pervade the capital, particularly between the affluent west and the deprived east.

Statistics show that life expectancy for a baby girl born in Tower Hamlets or Newham is 79 years compared with 84 years in Kensington and Chelsea. Croydon and Waltham Forest also have among the highest rates of infant death, with seven deaths per 1,000 live births, significantly higher than England and Wales as a whole.

The King's Fund's director of policy (health) Anna Coote said:

'Although London is a city of great wealth it also contains 16 of the most deprived local authorities in the UK. Though the mayor has no direct control over the NHS in London, he can use his direct powers, for example over transport, as well as his strategic coordination role to encourage all public services, employers and voluntary sector agencies to help improve the health of all Londoners and reduce health inequalities.'

The mayoral candidates will be asked to outline their vision of how they would combat the capital's most pressing health issues. These include:

  • Making London a healthier place to live, for example by reducing traffic levels and improving air quality 
  • Helping to tackle shortages of NHS staff, for example by providing more affordable housing
  • Promoting healthy and sustainable public services, for example by developing training and employment opportunities for local people 
  • Supporting development in the NHS, for example by backing more out-patient services to reduce hospital admissions 
  • Supporting new health facilities, for example by involving the NHS in the planning process.

The event, being held at the Governor's Hall, St Thomas's Hospital, London, will be chaired by broadcaster Nick Ross and will also see the candidates quizzed about key health issues in London by the public, health and social care professionals, health charities and organisations.

Notes to editors

1. The King's Fund is an independent charitable foundation working for better health, especially in London. It carries out research, policy analysis and development activities, working on its own, in partnerships, and through grants. They are a major resource to people working in health, offering leadership and education courses; seminars and workshops; publications; information and library services; and conference and meeting facilities.

2. The Royal College of Nursing represents nurses and nursing, promotes excellence in practice and shapes health policies. As the leading professional union for nursing, they campaign on behalf of the profession and lobby government to ensure that the views of the profession are heard when it counts.

3. The London NHS Confederation is part of the national NHS Confederation. Its main purpose is to ensure that the Mayor and GLA have a clear, independent point of contact with NHS organisations in London, and to influence policy and debate on NHS issues in the capital.

4. The elections for London Mayor and the London Assembly, which together make up the Greater London Authority (GLA) are due to take place on June 10 2004.

5. A copy of the health manifesto, which sets out the five key messages, is available on request.