Former chair of the Royal College of GPs Steve Field is to head a new “health inclusion board” with goals outlined in the public health white paper.

The body is an attempt to improve the health of marginalised groups such as the homeless, sex workers and prisoners by providing them with better NHS care suited to their circumstances.

Professor Field, who has just ended his term as RCGP chair, will lead the new body of expert advisers who will include a variety of health professionals experienced in delivering care to vulnerable groups.

He said: “Andrew Lansley wants to make a big difference in health inequalities and to make sure that the most disadvantaged in society get the healthcare they need and deserve. The board will champion the cause of people who are vulnerable and socially excluded, such as the homeless and street sex workers.”

He added: “It’s a scandal that life expectancy among homeless people is in the low 40s, at a time when healthcare and lifestyle improvements mean that men and women are living longer than ever, some homeless people only live for about half the time average Britons do.”

As well as the homeless the board will seek to improve health care for other marginalised groups such as problematic drug users, refugees, asylum seekers and those who have left care and young people who are not in education, employment or training.

Professor Field said that improvements would save money because such groups cost the NHS disproportionate amounts of money as they tend to end up emergency departments.