All 1 Baroness Sater contributions to the Health and Care Act 2022

Read Bill Ministerial Extracts

Tue 7th Dec 2021
Health and Care Bill
Lords Chamber

2nd reading & 2nd reading & 2nd reading

Health and Care Bill

Baroness Sater Excerpts
Baroness Sater Portrait Baroness Sater (Con)
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My Lords, I draw the attention of the House to my interests in the register. In particular, I am chair of the Queen’s Club Foundation and president of Tennis Wales. My purpose in speaking during Second Reading is to highlight the growing importance of sport, recreation and physical activity as essential components of the proactive health policy sought in many of the measures in the Bill. My noble friend Lord Moynihan and I have been working on this important issue. He was keen to speak today and offers his apologies as he is in Wales for long-standing school governor meetings. However, he will be with us in Committee.

The background to our concern, also shared by my noble friend Lord Hayward, is the notable move that sport and recreation has made from isolation from government policy up until the 1990s to taking centre stage in both health and education policy-making. Indeed, there is hardly a department of state where sport and recreation do not feature as an important strand of policy-making. While this debate is not about schools, who can deny that making sure that physical literacy is at the centre of modern educational policy is vital in the decade ahead? Participation levels have remained stubbornly low in the UK. Despite winning the right to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London 2012, the excitement in the build-up as we prepared to host the games from 2005 to 2012, and the much-fought-for sports legacy which was meant to raise the bar for sports participation across the country, our levels of participation and enjoyment of an active lifestyle have actually fallen as a percentage of the population.

The Key Data on Young People material recently published by the Health Foundation makes compulsive reading. What is known and appreciated is that the risk factors for later mortality are laid down in the teens and early 20s. The major risk factors leading to mortality or illness in later age are directly related not just to tobacco use or alcohol, for example, but to obesity and a lack of physical activity. If we take action and reverse this trend, physical activity can and must become a major factor in redirecting our health policy away from simply addressing illness to preventive work aimed at improving levels of physical fitness, well-being and mental health.

Covid has now changed the picture for the worse. In January this year, experts expressed deep concern that the coronavirus pandemic has had a huge impact on children’s physical activity levels. New figures from Sport England show that the majority of young people failed to meet the recommended 60 minutes of daily exercise in the 2019-20 academic year. That was a decrease of almost 2% compared with the previous 12 months. Almost a third of children—2.3 million—were classed as inactive as a result of lockdown restrictions, not even doing 30 minutes per day. That was up by 2.5%.

There appears to be little evidence that we have returned to pre-pandemic levels—an essential starting point to address 15 years of flatlining, growing obesity, growing inequalities and a crisis of fitness among young people. The Bill provides us with the opportunity to address this fundamentally important challenge. In Committee, we intend to introduce amendments to the Bill to ensure that the original plans for an Office for Health Promotion are enshrined in legislation, so that participating in sport and physical activity is at the heart of the Government’s plans and that people can and should enjoy healthier, happier and more productive lives.

On 29 March this year, the Government issued a press release announcing the welcome news that the Office for Health Promotion would be up and running by the autumn. The Prime Minister publicly welcomed the move, as we did. He said:

“The new Office for Health Promotion will be crucial in tackling the causes, not just the symptoms, of poor health and improving prevention of illnesses and disease … Covid-19 has demonstrated the importance of physical health in our ability to tackle such illnesses, and we must continue to help people to lead healthy lives so that we can all better prevent and fight illnesses.”

However, this welcome news—which I saw as a watershed step in the right direction by the Department of Health, underpinning, as it did, the vital importance of seeing sport and recreation as an inherent part of wider policy initiatives for social prescribing, physical and mental well-being and a fitter population more capable of tackling obesity and sickness, as well as a preventive policy for a healthy lifestyle—has been dropped.

In its place, an Office for Health Improvement and Disparities was formed. I say “in its place”, because the words of the Prime Minister had been erased from descriptions of the substitute body taking the place of the Office for Health Promotion. Mention of physical activity was completely deleted, resulting in the stark absence of any reference to its vital importance.

Whatever the final shape of the approach taken, I believe a key division in the Department of Health, bringing together the policy strands of active lifestyles, health and well-being, should be at the heart of British policy formation, and could achieve far-reaching benefits for all members of our community, particularly the hard-to-reach groups. My noble friends Lord Moynihan and Lord Hayward and other colleagues who share similar views look forward to exploring ways in which this can be achieved when we return to the Bill in Committee early in the new year.