A Fair Service…
It's not fair that people living in the poorest parts of Scotland have worse health and die younger than those in well-off areas.
There are lots of factors that contribute to bad health and early death. Poor housing, low access to good quality affordable food, lack of education and job opportunities, unreliable public transport, lack of local health services, lack of leisure facilities, excessive use of alcohol, taking drugs and smoking tobacco - all play their part.
All these factors tend to affect people in poorer areas more than they affect people in well-off areas. We call this health gap between poor and well-off "Health Inequalities".
We need to focus our actions across the Government on the needs of people in poorer areas so that we can reduce the health gap, and lessen health inequalities.
We've set up a Ministerial Task Force on Health Inequalities that will help us to do this. The Task Force is focusing on practical actions for change, working across the Government and with partners in the public, private and voluntary sectors to tackle the causes, and the effects, of health inequalities.
We will also:
- work with parents, carers, schools and communities to ensure that all children get the best possible start in their early years, as this will have a very positive effect on their health when they are adults
- abolish prescription charges completely by April 2011 so that all those who need medicines can get them without worrying about the cost
- encourage GPs and other health staff to work in poorer areas
- increase the kinds of services easily-accessible health professionals like nurses and pharmacists can deliver
- develop new ways of encouraging people to lead healthy lifestyles and set health promotion as a priority for all NHS services
- attract more people to fulfilling jobs within the NHS that boost their self-esteem and sense of well-being
- develop a framework for delivering health services to people living in remote and rural parts of Scotland, whose access to services may be very limited.