UK Government finally confirms that the long-awaited Health Disparities White Paper is shelved

Today (26 January) the UK Government finally confirmed that the Health Disparities White Paper will not be going ahead.

Instead, the Government has announced it will publish a Major Conditions Strategy, with an interim report due to be published this summer. The strategy will tackle cancers, cardiovascular disease, including stroke and diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, dementia, mental ill health and musculoskeletal conditions. It remains unclear at this stage how health inequalities will be individually addressed nor if there will be any specific focus on children and young people. 

In response to the news, RCPCH President, Dr Camilla Kingdon said: 

It is truly disappointing to hear that the government has abandoned plans to publish its Health Disparities White Paper. In its place, we have yet another plan to publish a strategy when what we really need is urgent action. As paediatricians we know how desperately real change is needed to tackle entrenched and ever-growing child health inequalities across the UK. 

Health inequalities are estimated to cost the NHS an extra £4.8bn a year and recent findings from the ONS show that since early 2020, almost 400,000 people exited the jobs market with long-term health problems. The Government knows there is a problem, yet we still have no clear strategy that considers the role of every department and every available policy in tackling health inequalities, including those that start in childhood. 

We are deeply concerned at the apparent lack of focus on children and young people in the newly announced Major Conditions Strategy, which seems more focused on treatment than prevention. By abandoning the Health Disparities White Paper, we have lost the singular focus needed to effectively address health inequalities. By truly valuing all children, whatever circumstances they are born into, we create a healthier citizen, less dependent on the state in the future and more able to rise to the many challenges of modern-day life.