NHS only offers a 'sticking plaster' for inequality in Scotland

Sticking plaster Image copyright PA

The NHS can only offer a "sticking plaster" for a health gap between rich and poor by itself, it has been claimed.

A "joined-up approach across a raft of policy areas" is needed to tackle the problem, Holyrood's Health committee has concluded.

MSPs found "well-intended initiatives" had aimed to reduce the gap between affluent and deprived areas.

However none has made "any significant difference".

They also heard from experts that the effect of "lifestyle public health campaigns" encouraging people to eat more healthily, give up smoking, exercise more and drink less was "to widen inequalities rather than to narrow them".

'Corresponding impact'

Committee convener Duncan McNeil said: "That your income, your education and where you live contribute to how healthy you are is an issue that as a society should bring us significant shame.

"Since devolution, successive governments have made this a political priority and invested significant amounts of public money in tackling this complex issue.

"But sadly none have made any significant difference.

"Our NHS can offer a sticking plaster, but without a new approach we will not tackle the root causes of inequality and improve the health outcomes of thousands of people across Scotland."

The committee is writing to the conveners of other Holyrood committees, urging them to consider what could be done to reduce wider inequalities, arguing this would "have a corresponding impact on health and wellbeing inequalities".

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