New health inequalities report sets out the scale of the challenge in Scotland

public health
Published on Thursday, 13 December 2012 10:53
Posted by Vicki Mitchem

Commenting on the Audit Scotland Report Health inequalities in Scotland published today, Dr Brian Keighley, Chairman of the BMA in Scotland, said:

"This report sets out clearly the scale of the problem of health inequalities in Scotland. Although there have been improvements in life expectancy across Scotland as a whole, it is unacceptable that men living in the most disadvantaged areas of Scotland have a reduced life expectancy of around 11 years, compared to men living in wealthier areas.

"While the NHS deals with the consequences of inequalities in society, the solution is not solely the responsibility of the health service. Narrowing health inequalities means co-ordination across different government departments to ensure policy in one area doesn't undermine another. Achieving co-ordinated policy development across social, environmental, education and health portfolios requires sustained cross-departmental collaboration and the development of synergistic policies. The BMA believes that the introduction of health impact assessments for all government policy is a practical measure that could help to close the gap."

Commenting on the recommendations for General Practice set out by Audit Scotland, Dr Alan McDevitt, Chairman of the BMA's Scottish General Practitioners Committee, said:

"It can be difficult for patients in the most deprived communities to access health services and it is important that we use the unique relationship that GPs have with their patients and in their communities to target health care to those who need it most.

"The BMA has recently reached an agreement with the Scottish Government on changes to the GP contract for 2013/14 which include measures to enable practices to identify vulnerable patients who are at risk of avoidable hospital admission. The quality framework of the contract also helps to manage patients with long term conditions where the health needs can be greater in the poorest areas. However, it is important to leave enough time in the 10 minute consultation to deal with the problems that the patient wants to deal with and not just to deal with the reminders on the computer screen.

"GPs working in areas of high deprivation work in a particularly challenging environment and frequently see patients with multiple health needs and social problems. It is therefore difficult to provide the care each individual needs within the normal consultation time available and resources to support an increase to the average consultation time for GPs would mean they can spend more time with their patients.

"The solution to health inequalities is not necessarily simply a case of contractual change, but also providing the resources required to help practices meet the complex care needs of patients. Providing appropriate resources and premises would enable an extended group of health professionals such as community nurses, social work services and counsellors, to provide a comprehensive range of services in familiar surroundings which could help patients access care at a time when intervention will be most effective."

Source: ©BMA

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