Health secretary, Frank Dobson, has given the go-ahead for the first series of Health Action Zones, which will be given special help in improving local health services and fighting the inequalities that develop in healthcare delivery in poverty-stricken areas.
Eleven new zones, including inner cities and struggling rural areas, are to be set up in England. The South Yorkshire coalfield communities, Bradford, the East End of London, Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham, Luton, Manchester, Salford and Trafford, North Cumbria, Northumberland, Plymouth, Sandwell and Tyne and Wear are the areas earmarked as the first zones.
Dobson said: “Now the Health Action Zones have been chosen they must get on with the job. With the help of the NHS Executive, each of the areas chosen will now prepare detailed plans to implement what they proposed.
“I expect them to develop ways of involving patients and the public making decisions. We will be monitoring closely to check their actions are having a real impact on health.”
However, Dobson conceded areas not chosen this time would be disappointed: “This is just the first wave. A further group of 10 or 12 areas will become Health Action Zones next year.”
He added: “Once again they will be chosen on the basis of need and on being able to demonstrate a willingness and capacity to put together an effective local partnership.”
Health minister, Alan Milburn, said there had been 41 bids for funding, coming from 49 of England’s 100 health authorities.
The Government will provide £4 million for joint finance products in 1998/99, and £30 million in 1999/2000.