HC Deb 22 July 1997 vol 298 cc752-3
13. Ms Southworth

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action he is taking to promote local health strategies to improve public health. [7955]

Ms Jowell

Our strategy for public health recognises that we must operate at three levels if we are to make a real impact. First, Government must do those things that only Government can do. Secondly, individuals must make informed choices about those aspects of their life styles that influence their health. Thirdly, at a local level, health and local authorities must work together and with business, schools and the whole range of local stakeholders to deliver local targets within the framework of a national strategy.

Ms Southworth

Is my hon. Friend aware that, according to the Confederation of British Industry, more than 187 million working days were lost in 1996 due to sickness and ill health, which cost the country £12 billion? In my constituency, local businesses have worked with Warrington Community Healthcare NHS trust to develop a healthy businesses initiative and promote health care for their employees, which includes screening for visual display unit users, health and sickness screening and first aid training to improve workplaces. What can my hon. Friend do to spread that good practice across the country and ensure healthy workplaces for all?

Ms Jowell

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. I would be most interested to receive further information about the local initiative that she describes, as a major part of our public health strategy will be the development of healthy workplaces and working with businesses and industry to make the business case for public health.

Mr. Baldry

Does the Minister accept that one of the most important parts of any local health strategy is the relationship between social services and local health authorities? Is she aware that, at any one time, between 10 per cent. and 20 per cent. of beds in the Horton general hospital in Banbury are blocked by patients waiting for care in the community funding? That exacerbates the hospital's budget problems and, as a result, 12 surgical beds and a day hospital for the elderly were closed yesterday. Will the hon. Lady conduct a survey across the country to determine how many beds are blocked by patients awaiting social service funding for care in the community?

Ms Jowell

Once again, a Conservative Member abdicates any responsibility for the circumstances of the past 10 years that have created the situation that he now regrets. We believe that local partnerships are essential, and we are concerned to see that the responsibilities of health authorities and local social services authorities are discharged properly. However, our local initiatives will embrace a far wider range of organisations to combat deprivation and meet our election commitment to tackling the root causes of ill health.