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Inequalities ‘most significant threat’ to public health, warns Vice-President of Royal Society of Medicine

Inequalities are the most significant threat to public health in the UK, a top doctor has warned ahead of a major conference at the Royal Society of Medicine.

Dr Claire Bayntun, Vice-President of the Royal Society of Medicine, has called for urgency in addressing unequal health outcomes, which were so sharply exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Her comments come ahead of the RSM’s inaugural Tackling Inequalities conference on Wednesday 14 September 2022, in partnership with NHS England.

Dr Bayntun said: "Inequalities are the most significant threat to health and well-being in our country and around the world.

"The pandemic has shown the tragic consequences of inequalities in our society. We must act urgently and comprehensively to compassionately and proactively manage the challenges of inequalities that were so clearly demonstrated throughout the pandemic.

“As a Clinical Consultant in Global Public Health, tackling inequalities is a central priority of all my work. All who care about population health outcomes share this resolve."

The conference will bring together healthcare leaders from major clinical specialisms and public-health experts to discuss how to take measurable actions to address health inequalities in the UK.

The packed agenda includes keynote speeches from leading experts on health inequalities Dr Bola Owolabi and Professor Sir Michael Marmot.

Professor Roger Kirby, President of the Royal Society of Medicine, said: “As one of the leading providers of postgraduate education for healthcare professionals, we have a unique role in turning ideas into action around tackling health inequalities.

“That is precisely what this conference is designed to do.

“We will equip the healthcare community with the knowledge, tools and inspiration to play their part in addressing this huge problem, which is needlessly shortening lives in this country.”

Tackling health inequalities is a priority for both the Royal Society of Medicine and the NHS. The NHS Long Term Plan lists the following stark statistics:

• While life expectancy continues to improve for the most affluent 10% of our population, it has either stalled or fallen for the most deprived 10%
• Premature mortality in Blackpool, the most deprived part of the country, is twice as high as in the most affluent areas
• Women in the most deprived parts of England spend 34% of their lives in poor health, compared to 17% in the wealthiest areas
• Multimorbidity is more common in deprived areas, and some parts of our population, including BAME communities, are at substantially higher risk of poor health and early death
• On average, adults with a learning disability die 16 years earlier than the general population – 13 years for men, 20 years for women
• People with severe mental health illnesses tend to die 15-20 years earlier than those without

It also states: “The NHS was founded to provide universal access to healthcare, though healthcare is only one of many factors that influence our health. The social and economic environment in which we are born, grow up, live, work and age, as well as the decisions we make for ourselves and our families collectively, have a bigger impact on our health than health care alone.”

Notes to editors

For more information or to request a free press pass for the conference please contact:

Rosalind Dewar
Media Office, Royal Society of Medicine
DL: +44 (0) 1580 764713
M: +44 (0) 7785 182732

The Royal Society of Medicine (RSM) is a registered charity and membership organisation. Our vision is better healthcare for better lives. By sharing learning and supporting innovation our goal is to be the leading provider of continuing learning to healthcare professionals.

We deliver multidisciplinary, specialist and general education, as well as professional development, drawing on the support of leading experts in over 50 specialist areas of medicine.

We are home to one of the finest physical and digital medical libraries in the world. Our learning resources span a wide collection of books, journals, electronic journals and online medical databases.

We connect those involved in and interested in healthcare and, by leveraging expertise from across the RSM, we support, help and inspire the innovators developing the medical products and services of tomorrow.

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