From Action on Smoking and Health <[email protected]>
Subject ASH Daily News for 1 May 2024
Date May 1, 2024 10:06 AM
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** 1 May 2024

** UK

** Leading MPs condemned as more constituents suffer ‘avoidable ill-health’ (#3)

** NHS in England needs 3 more years to recover from Covid, says chair (#6)

** Vapes, cash and cigarettes seized by police (#4)

** International

** Japan Tobacco reshapes supply chains to protect Russia business (#8)

** UK

** Leading MPs condemned as more constituents suffer ‘avoidable ill-health’

Dozens of MPs, including former prime minister Liz Truss, Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove and former health secretary Steve Barclay have been criticised after new analysis revealed people in their constituencies are “suffering avoidable ill-health and living shorter lives than they should”.

One of the world’s leading health equity experts, Professor Sir Michael Marmot, has written a damning letter to 58 MPs across England to highlight “particularly concerning health trends” in their constituencies.

New analysis, by academics from the Institute of Health Equity at University College London (UCL), highlights which local areas are “falling behind” when it comes to health.

Researchers examined every local authority in England to plot levels of health, inequalities in health, and cuts in their spending power.

They identified 17 local authorities with statistically significant increases in inequalities in life expectancy between 2010-12 and the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sir Michael has written letters to the 58 MPs whose constituencies lie wholly or partially in these areas.

“We need you to fight for all your constituents’ health. They are suffering avoidable ill-health and living shorter lives than they should due to poor policies and cuts to essential services,” Sir Michael wrote.

He has also written to the leaders of all major political parties demanding action.

In his letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Sir Michael, who published a seminal review into health inequalities in England in 2010, said austerity and funding cuts have “harmed health and worsened health inequalities” and that life expectancy is “stalling” which is a “tragic waste”.

Key findings from the new report, shared with the PA news agency, include:
– Areas where life expectancy inequality “significantly increased” between 2010-12 and 2017-19 include Rotherham in South Yorkshire and Kensington & Chelsea in London for females, and County Durham and Cornwall for males.

– Inequalities in life expectancy increased nationally between 2010/12 and 2017/19. Inequalities in life expectancy for women increased significantly in the North East, North West, Yorkshire & the Humber, East of England, East Midlands, and the South West. For men they increased in the North East, Yorkshire & the Humber, and the East of England.

– Since 2010, cuts to local authorities meant their spending power per head of population had fallen by an average of 34% across England by 2019/20.

– Healthy life expectancy – how long a person can expect to live in good health – is improving across Europe, but is getting worse in the UK.

“It is no surprise that local authorities are struggling to make ends meet and that people are living shorter lives than they should,” Sir Michael said.
“If you slash the services that support people then health will be harmed. Levelling up was supposed to provide badly-needed funding for the most deprived areas. But it was a derisory amount and, as a result, never going to improve health.”

Source: The Daily Mail, 1 May 2024

See also: Institute of Health Equity - England’s Widening Health Gap: Local Places Falling Behind ([link removed])
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** NHS in England needs 3 more years to recover from Covid, says chair

The NHS in England needs three more years to recover fully from the Covid-19 pandemic as a lack of investment in hospital buildings and medical equipment hampers its ability to capitalise on an influx of new staff, according to its chair.

Richard Meddings, the Chair of the Board of NHS England, told the Financial Times that the taxpayer-funded service, where patients are waiting for 7.5mn hospital appointments, faced a “Sisyphean” struggle to meet demand fuelled by “the behaviours of a modern world” including gambling and consumption of ultra-processed foods.

Although about 8 per cent of NHS posts are vacant at present, the number of consultant doctors increased by 16 per cent in the four years from December 2019. Nurses and midwives rose 17 per cent over the same period. Yet the NHS was failing to secure a corresponding increase in patient care, Meddings suggested.

“We still have insufficient staff, but actually the pace at which workforce has recently come in is not driving the commensurate output,” he said in an interview, adding that part of the reason was a lack of capital investment.

“Post the pandemic, and the surge in demand that comes from . . . having closed down a lot of the support to focus on Covid, actually it’s a five-year recovery and we’re only a couple of years through that,” the former banker added.

Although chancellor Jeremy Hunt in March announced an extra £2.5bn for the day-to-day budget of the health service in 2024-25, the NHS is suffering from an estimated £12bn shortfall in spending on buildings and equipment.

In addition to population growth and ageing, Meddings said the NHS was having to deal with “changing patterns of demand, some of which comes from the behaviours of a modern world, with its ultra-processed foods”, which typically contain additives and sweeteners.

About one in four people in England was obese — a condition linked to 13 different cancers — forcing health chiefs to buy “larger ambulances, with wider beds”, he said.

The NHS recently opened its 15th gambling treatment centre, while the number of children and young people seeking help for anxiety and mental health disorders has surged by 48 per cent since 2019-20 — an increase Meddings suggested could be linked in part to social media use.

“I think it’s a Sisyphean task for the health service,” he said. “However much you roll the boulder up the hill, you’ve got to keep going and the boulder may change, but it always rolls back and on you go again.”

A government white paper on gambling last year proposed a levy on companies that is expected to raise about £100mn a year for NHS treatment, raising questions over whether the approach should be widened to other sectors.

Meddings said: “It’s not for me to do policy. But if you and I are chatting as citizens . . . should there be a different compact with some of the industries which might cause health issues? Probably.”

Source: Financial Times, 30 April 2024
Read Here ([link removed])

** Vapes, cash and cigarettes seized by police

Vapes, illicit tobacco and cash have been seized during a police operation in Kent.

Officers targeted three shops in Dartford and Gravesend suspected of selling the unregulated products.

In total, £4,000 in cash, more than 1,200 vapes, 94,000 cigarettes, 20kg of shisha and 46 pouches of tobacco were recovered.

Insp Lee Cheesman said: “The sale of illicit cigarettes, tobacco and vapes poses a serious health risk to consumers and affects the trade of law-abiding businesses.”

Police found false walls in two of the businesses which concealed some products, while a third shop had items stored in wheelie bins in a garden.

Mr Cheesman added: “These results show just how prevalent this issue is and the lengths to which some shop owners will allegedly go to conceal products and avoid detection.

“This operation will be repeated in the future.”

Source: BBC, 1 May 2024
Read Here ([link removed])

** International

** Japan Tobacco reshapes supply chains to protect Russia business

Japan Tobacco’s chief executive has said the company will keep its lucrative Russian business to satisfy investors after reshaping its supply chains to comply with sanctions.

The cigarette maker is routing some business through Turkey and has moved key personnel to Hong Kong as ties with Russia have come under pressure in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine, Masamichi Terabatake told the Financial Times.

The company, 33 per cent owned by the Japanese state, had originally said it would consider selling its Russian business following the onset of war in 2022. It decided to continue but suspended all investment and marketing activities in Russia. The country accounted for about 20 per cent of the company’s overall profits, Terabatake said.

Investors were concerned about any potential decline in profits, he said, adding that he would breach his fiduciary duty if he were to shut down a business he could continue to run at a profit.

“If I said for example that we are going to quit the business, investors may face the risk of losses. If worse comes to worst, there is even the risk of a shareholder lawsuit if we were to discontinue a business that we are able to continue,” he said.

JT has stayed on as one of the biggest foreign companies left in Russia, with more than 4,000 employees and four factories. The company’s overall profits were ¥482bn ($3bn) in 2023.

The EU, Japan, the US and other western countries have imposed wide-ranging sanctions on Russia to curb flows of money and goods. Speaking at JT’s headquarters in Tokyo, Terabatake said it had put in place a new structure for its Russia unit and supply chain to comply, including positioning staff in Hong Kong for monitoring procurement routes and inventory.

“There are various things we need to be careful of from sanctions — what kind of people can be involved or not in decision-making, excluding people from unfriendly countries for Russia’s management . . . to putting people unrelated to sanctions in places such as Hong Kong,” said Terabatake. “But otherwise, it’s business as usual.”

Source: Financial Times, 1 May 2024
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