Greater Manchester is just over 2.5 million people. On Friday, George Osborne will announce that the health and social care budgets covering the 10 Mancunian boroughs will be combined to deliver strategically planned and coordinated services to those who need it.
With London’s population hitting a record 8.6 million it has its own unique health reality. We have some of the finest hospitals in the world, providing cutting edge treatment across a wide number of different fields.
London has lower smoking prevalence, risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer rates than the rest of the country.
Simultaneously, London has higher rates of low birth weight babies, teenage pregnancy, childhood obesity, HIV, serious mental illness, and suicide.
London also faces a complicated and diverse set of challenges, with 40% of the population coming from 90 different minority ethnic groups, speaking hundreds of different languages.
London’s demographic is younger than the rest of the country. Average age in the capital is 34, but 16% of London’s doctors are now over 60 and looking towards retirement.
The city also has some of the starkest health inequalities in Britain. The difference in life expectancy between some wards across the capital can be as much as 17 years.
It is particularly significant that such a historic announcement about the Manchester health service is being announced by the Chancellor and not Jeremy Hunt, perhaps because this move represents a step back to a Strategic Health Authority which was removed by the Government in their disastrous £3bn restructure.
London is in the midst of an NHS crisis. The Mayor’s failure to intervene on behalf of Londoners and protect good frontline services has left a gaping hole in emergency cover. The Ambulance Service is under pressure and is continually missing its target response times. A&E departments are now in permanent crisis mode, using expansion beds as a matter of course with no extra capacity. Maternity and paediatric wards are set to be closed along with further A&E closures.
Meanwhile getting a GP appointment to suit working families is getting harder and health services must be continually prepared to face anything from the Ebola virus to a terrorist attack.
It has always been my position that through a more coordinated and strategically planned health protection and provision we can reduce inequalities and improve care. Together, alongside better coordination with the voluntary sector, I do believe we can make London a healthier place for all.
Boris Johnson commissioned Lord Darzi to examine how to make London a healthier city and he recommended a degree of strategic oversight, especially in the public health area- he recommend a Health Commissioner to bring more democratic accountability to health.
We must create a more strategic approach to London’s health reality in order to deal with London’s health issues. But if it’s good enough for Manchester, why won’t the Chancellor and the Mayor commit similar approach in London?
Dr Onkar Sahota is a Member of the London Assembly for Ealing and Hillingdon, as well as a practicing GP in West London. He is Chairman of the Assembly Health Committee.