Bid to increase life expectancy in Essex

A HEALTH trust has set out a five-year plan to increase life expectancy and tackle obesity, drug abuse and teenage pregnancies in north east Essex.

Roddy Ashworth

A HEALTH trust has set out a five-year plan to increase life expectancy and tackle obesity, drug abuse and teenage pregnancies in north east Essex.

The board of North East Essex Primary Care Trust approved the strategy with a series of targets to improve the health of the people of Colchester and Tendring at a meeting yesterday afternoon.

Making Healthy Choices, Our Commitments to You covers the period from now until 2013 and contains nine main pledges for the 305,000 population of the area, which includes Clacton, Harwich, Walton, Frinton, Manningtree and Wivenhoe.

The strategy, approved during a board meeting held in public in Clacton, is designed to help the PCT decide between competing priorities and also inform where it should spend its cash.

Speaking after the meeting, Dr Paul Zollinger-Read chief executive of the PCT, thanked everyone who had taken the time and trouble to respond during the public consultation period, which ended last month.

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“We are grateful for all those members of the public - as well as staff, other healthcare professionals and various organisations - who took part,” he said.

“We will review our strategy on an ongoing basis and produce an operational plan every year which will describe the actions required to achieve each of the commitments and how these will be implemented.”

The nine commitments made by the trust are:

* to increase life expectancy, in particular for those people who die prematurely, and improve health and well-being

* to tackle certain diseases to reduce levels of illness

* to provide better access and choice and care closer to home

* to improve the health and well-being of children and young people

* to improve mental health services

* to improve premises and make them suitable for modern healthcare

* to improve patient safety and make healthcare as safe as possible

* to excel in the way that the PCT purchases care on behalf of the population

* to be committed to the principle of patient and public involvement and to making real improvements to the patient experience.

The PCT aims to reduce the 13.3 year discrepancy in life expectancy between the best council ward within its boundaries - currently Alresford, at 83.4 years - and the worst - currently Pier, in Clacton, at 70.1 years - by 10%.

It also plans to work more closely with schools to help to reduce the level of binge drinking by young people and develop the Cornerstone concept - a multi-agency health and welfare project in Colchester - into Clacton.

Other targets include improving access to NHS dentists, slowing the increase in obesity in children aged five to 10 years by 2009 and reducing the number of teenage pregnancies by 50% by 2010.

The PCT also intends to develop and employ health trainers to support people, especially those in high-risk groups, to choose healthy lifestyles.

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