Batley and Spen MP leads London event on health and wellbeing

Over 100 experts in health and wellbeing policy gathered in central London to discuss how a future Labour government could deliver policies for a healthier, happier and more productive Britain, in an event hosted by Batley and Spen MP Kim Leadbeater.
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Shadow Health Secretary, Wes Streeting, former Cabinet Secretary, Lord Gus O’Donnell, and Professor Sir Michael Marmot were among the speakers at the symposium on Thursday, September 7 after Ms Leadbeater’s ‘Healthy Britain’ proposals were published by the Fabian Society earlier this year.

Mr Streeting opened the event, saying it was “a long time since we’ve had a government seriously committed to health and wellbeing” and, as a result, Britain was “paying a serious price for inaction.” He said tackling these challenges would require an effort across government, in partnership with the third sector and business. The Labour party was “committed to prevention and early intervention,” he added, and “if there’s one word that sums up Starmerism, it’s prevention”.

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Lord O’Donnell said Kim’s report highlighted the fact that the challenge was about much more than just the NHS. He said: “Wellbeing is much, much bigger than just talking about health,” while Sir Marmot said health and wellbeing “should be at the heart of everything we ask politicians to do.” Referring to his ground-breaking ‘Marmot Review’ into a fair society and healthy lives, he said that since it was published in 2010 when Labour left office, inequalities in health had increased and life expectancy outside London had actually fallen. He warned that “Britain is in terrible shape” and said “the next Labour government must create a society in which everyone can flourish”.

Batley and Spen MP Kim LeadbeaterBatley and Spen MP Kim Leadbeater
Batley and Spen MP Kim Leadbeater

Paul Gately, Professor of Exercise and Obesity at Leeds Beckett University, said government policy had to “move away from who shouts the loudest” and be “evidence-based and not opinion-led”.

Lord Richard Layard, co-founder of Action for Happiness, said: “We must move on from the welfare state to the wellbeing state.” He pointed to a range of determinants that could improve people’s lives including tackling addiction, low skills and mental health challenges.

Anneliese Dodds, Labour’s Shadow Women and Equalities minister added: “A more collaborative approach to wellbeing in health should be a part of every policy. We have fallen by the wayside, particularly for women's health, with one in five women now on an NHS waiting list.”

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Speaking after the event, Ms Leadbeater said. “I’m delighted that my report has helped stimulate such a wide-ranging and detailed discussion of what needs to be done to make Britain not just healthier and happier, but more productive and more equal too.

“There are huge challenges facing an incoming Labour government and nobody is suggesting that fixing all these problems will be quick or easy, but across the party we are doing the hard work and the hard thinking in opposition that will prepare us for the task ahead.”