The RCGP and BMA are among 155 organisations to urge the health secretary to recommit to publishing a white paper on health disparities.
However, the Department of Health and Social Care told the paper the information was ‘inaccurate’, adding that ‘no decisions have been taken’.
The Government had committed to releasing a white paper on health disparities as part of the Boris Johnson administration’s ‘Levelling Up’ pledge – initially due last spring.
However Dr Coffey failed to mention the paper in her new ‘Plan for Patients’, raising alarm among health and care professional organisations about her intentions for publication.
In response, the the Inequalities in Health Alliance, led by the Royal College of Physicians and also including the RCGP and BMA, has sent her a letter demanding it be published by the end of 2022.
The letter said that without a cross-government plan in place the NHS and DHSC will be left in an ‘unsustainable position’ trying to treat illnesses ‘created by the environments people live in’.
‘Focusing on individual behaviours and access to services alone will not be enough’ to close the gap in healthy life expectancy, with further action needed to tackle wider determinants of health, which include housing and child poverty, it added.
Their letter said: ‘To prevent ill health in the first place, action needs to be taken on issues such as poor housing, lack of educational opportunity, child poverty, the commercial determinants of health (such as the availability of tobacco and marketing of alcohol), communities and place, employment, racism and discrimination, transport and air pollution.’
A cross-Government strategy would provide long-term savings to the NHS and the wider economy by reducing avoidable illness, the organisations stressed.
It comes after NHS England announced last week it would be scrapping an incentive from the PCN contract which would have seen PCNs use GP Patient Survey results to identify and support patients experiencing inequal access to general practice.
RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said on Friday: ‘Reports that the Government is considering dropping plans to tackle inequalities in health are deeply concerning.
‘Practices serving more deprived populations receive around 7% less funding per patient and have around 10% more patients per GP, than those serving more affluent populations.
‘The RCGP has been calling for extra funding for practices serving the most deprived populations to recruit and retain staff in under-doctored areas, as part of a comprehensive review of the formula which determines how resources are allocated.
‘That is why we are part of the 155 organisations who have signed a letter today urging the Health and Social Care Secretary to publish the planned health disparities white paper. We need cross governmental action to tackle the causes of health inequalities and lessen its impacts.’
A major Pulse investigation in August revealed as many as 474 GP practices have closed in the last nine years in the UK with the greatest proportion found in deprived areas.
And new guidance from NHS England last week set out that ICBs should prioritise system spending in areas which are deprived and have the highest health inequalities.