Health gaps between rich and poor are still growing across London, despite the government's much publicised pledge to cut them by 2010, according to a report.

Figures published by the London Health Observatory reveal stark differences in mortality rates and life expectancy in boroughs only a few miles apart.

They also indicate that the babies of single mothers are more likely to die that those born to women with partners.

Observatory director Dr Bobbie Jacobson is now calling for concerted action from the government on public health.

It is a view shared by the Health Development Agency, which said it was 'very concerned' by the findings, especially because the trends appear to be replicated across the country.

The report, Mapping Health Inequalities Across London, found that a male born in Newham - one of the poorest areas of the country - is likely to die six years before one born in Westminster.

In 1990 the difference was five years. In the borough of Bexley, the infant mortality rate is 3.6 deaths for every 1,000 live births.

In Hackney it rises to 8.9.

The government has laid down a series of tough targets to cut health inequalities by 2010, including a pledge to save 300,000 lives.

Dr Jacobson described the aims as 'laudable', but, with a health spending review taking place this autumn, she is calling for the Treasury to invest substantial resources to help meet them.

She added: 'This is an area for central government -and particularly the Treasury - but it has to be wider than that.

'Action needs to be taken at ground level, and that means using every aspect of the NHS.'

HDA chair Yve Buckland said:

'It is a very great concern for us.

There may be less focus on these inequalities in health, especially with the other reforms taking place, the reorganisations and the other priorities that have been set. The government needs to reinforce the importance of their strategy.'

She also called for the targets to be incorporated in the NHS performance management framework.

Mapping Health Inequalities Across London, www. lho. org. uk