MPs say LESs can tackle health inequalities

All-Party Parliamentary Group report calls for more powers for GPs to set local priorities.

Local enhanced services (LESs) should be used to tackle health inequalities and improve the health of disadvantaged communities, say MPs.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Primary Care and Public Health says PCTs should encourage GPs to commission health services that are appropriate for their local area.

The group, co-chaired by GP Dr Howard Stoate, Labour MP for Dartford, says that health targets for disadvantaged groups could be incorporated into the QOF or introduced through LESs.

In addition, it argues that GPs should be given more freedom to commission services that benefit local populations.

The recommendations come in a report on public health information, published last week.

GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul welcomed the proposal for PCTs to use LESs to help disadvantaged communities.

'LESs are an appropriate way of investing in local schemes and tackling health inequalities, but PCTs' use of them has been lamentable,' he said.

'LESs have been woefully underused and they are often seen as a soft target to offset other budgetary pressures.'

Dr Nagpaul said that he would want to see PCTs investing in LESs by using funds freed up by changes to the way QOF accounts for prevalence.

'The £11 million that will be lost from GP practices should be reinvested in LESs, which could focus on disadvantaged groups in the way set out by the all-party group,' he said.

The report also argues that NHS providers should be required to spend a defined percentage of their budget on health information for patients and the public. In addition, information officers should be appointed in surgeries to help patients with information, prescriptions and internet searches, it says.

The group suggests regulations to enable local authorities to control the number of local fast food outlets. It also heard evidence supporting the raising of the legal age at which alcohol can be bought from 18 to 21.

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