Gordon and Shadow Health Minister Sharon Hodgson MP have met with Blackpool Council’s Public Health team to discuss challenges facing Blackpool in the wake of Government cuts.

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The meeting with the Council’s Director and Public Health team included Chris Webb – Lancashire Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner and Cllr Lynn Williams – Cabinet member for Public Health.

Dr Arif Rajpura (Director of Public Health) gave a presentation underlining the stark inequalities between Blackpool and other local authorities on a whole range of indicators with the rest of the country – including a spike in early deaths among young people and life expectancy in the town in certain areas significantly reduced compared to national and regional averages.

Programmes in Blackpool to tackle drug and alcohol abuse , the work that needs to be done to focus on direct support for early years among children and families in the town , the priorities being outlined to tackle mental health issues , especially among young men , and the continuing challenge of tackling and maintaining HIV/AIDS treatment and support for those affected locally at a time when NHS services are stretched were among the issues Gordon and the group discussed.

Afterwards, they were taken to Blackpool Victoria Hospital (a SmokeFree site) to meet with the staff who are working with the Public Health team to reduce smoking rates in the town – particularly amongst pregnant women. Smoking in Blackpool is almost 8% higher than the national average at 18%.

Gordon said: “We have some very big challenges in Blackpool around public health. Since 2010 the number of deaths caused by drug misuse across the town has doubled. The £850 million in Tory Government cuts to Blackpool, combined with our high levels of transiency make this more difficult for the council, police and other agencies to get a grip on. Dr Rajpura is determined to tackle these problems head on and reverse this trend. I know he’s working with charities such as Blackpool Fulfilling Lives, who I’ve met with twice in the last year in Blackpool and at Westminster with people who have benefitted from the programme.”

Sharon said: “It was a pleasure to meet with Dr Rajpura, Liz Petch, Shelley Piper and the public health team in Blackpool to discuss smoking cessation services, particularly those for pregnant women. Blackpool has one of the highest rates of smoking in the country, so it is great to see the dedicated work taking place to try and reduce those high levels of smoking, especially when taking into account public health budget cuts Blackpool has suffered under the Conservative Government.”

Chris added: “I would like to thanks Sharon for coming up and visiting our local hospital and listening to the challenges we face in our town. It was startling to hear about the issues our town faces, amounting to the lowest life expectancy for both males and females in the county. However, it was encouraging to hear the innovative work our Public Health team are accomplishing under Dr Arif Rajpura, despite being the most disadvantage local authority in the country.”

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