A major new report from the Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA) has revealed the North of England’s economy has been hit harder than the rest of the country during the COVID-19 pandemic with inequalities between the North and the rest of the country exacerbated.
The Government has been warned that “levelling up” is at risk, unless decisive action is taken to protect the Northern economy from further damage by prioritising the clinically vulnerable and most deprived communities in the North.
New data from the report revealed an extra 57.7 more people per 100,000 died in the Northern Powerhouse than the rest of England between March and July.
The NHSA, which brings together leading northern universities, research-intensive NHS trusts and Academic Health Science Networks, said the economic cost of the increased mortality in the North during the pandemic was £6.86bn while the reductions in mental health in the region due to the pandemic cost £5bn a year.
In Yorkshire and the Humber the mortality rate was 477.7 per 100,000 - a figure 43.7 more than the rest of England (excluding the North).
The highest mortality rate in the region was Kingston-upon-Hull, standing at 584.2 per 100,000 - 150.2 higher than the rest of England, excluding the North. Followed by Bradford, with 542.3 (108.3 higher than the rest of England, excluding the North) and then Rotherham with a figure of 541.6 (107.6 higher than the rest of England, excluding the North).
Lead author Professor Clare Bambra, a Professor of Public Health from Newcastle University, said the Government needed to provide immediate additional support to local authorities and devolved powers in the North.
She added long term investment was also needed in public health prevention in the North Powerhouse to reduce the inequalities that the pandemic has highlighted and ensure that the North is better equipped for building back better.
Professor Bambra said: “Our report highlights that we are not all in the pandemic together with the Northern regions being hardest hit. Health and wealth in the Northern Powerhouse lagged behind the rest of the country even before the Covid pandemic, and over the last year our significant regional inequalities have been exacerbated.”
It comes after The Yorkshire Post reported last week eighty businesses leaders signed a letter to 10 Downing Street warning that “levelling up” is at risk unless decisive action is taken protect the Northern economy from further damage.
NHSA's chief executive Dr Séamus O'Neill said: “The findings of our report are shocking but, sadly, not surprising. The North of England has suffered health and economic inequalities for generations and the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed these inequalities even further.”
Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “We cannot ignore evidence that COVID-19 has had a vastly disproportionate effect and so it's essential we prioritise the clinically vulnerable and deprived communities when it comes to the roll-out of the vaccine.
“There is a clear link between health inequalities and productivity, which has been well demonstrated by Northern researchers prior to the pandemic.”
Helen Barnard, the director of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, added: “Over a million people in Yorkshire and the Humber alone were living in poverty before coronavirus, and this year has shown us that levelling up is crucial for our health as well as building a stronger economy.
“This has been a long and difficult storm to weather, especially for people in poverty. Many families have faced a dual challenge in trying to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table, while also keeping themselves and their loved ones safe in jobs that can’t be done from home.
"As well as throwing a lifeline to keep people from harm during this crisis, it’s also vital that all parts of the country can access good jobs which offer a route out of poverty.”
A government spokesman said: "We remain determined to level up on health outcomes as well as opportunity, with our £30 billion Plan for Jobs helping create, protect and support across the UK.
"We have also committed £170 million to help families stay warm and well fed this winter while our Universal Credit increase has resulted in millions of people receiving more money than previously.
"Throughout the pandemic we have worked hand-in-hand with local authorities and over £300m has already been allocated to local authorities in England to help them stop the spread of the virus in their communities."
A special report by The Yorkshire Post reveals:
- A new major report from the Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA) entitled: Covid-19 and the Northern Powerhouse: Tackling Health Inequalities for UK Health and Productivity, reveals the North has been hit harder by COVID-19 than the rest of England in terms of both health and wealth outcomes.
The report, a collaboration with NIHR Applied Research Collaborations (North East and North Cumbria, Greater Manchester, North West Coast, Yorkshire and Humber), and the NIHR School of Public Health Research, warns government that there is a real risk that the most vulnerable communities in the North who currently face the most health inequalities could see the gap widen further still.
It has issued a raft of 12 recommendations for the Government - with an emphasis on to stop further deteriorations in the level of inequalities across Yorkshire and the North.
This includes the recommendation that additional resource be placed into the Test and Trace system in the Northern Powerhouse, which is then delivered through local primary care, public health, NHS labs and local authority services to ensure full population coverage.
It also calls for £1bn fund ring-fenced to tackle health inequalities at a regional level and increase local authority public health funding to address the higher levels of deprivation and public health need in the North.
Dr Séamus O’Neill, chief executive at the Northern Health Science Alliance, said: "The region, and equally Yorkshire, has some of the highest COVID mortality rates and, worryingly, we are seeing a reduction of mental wellbeing across northern communities. It is critical that the Government acts quickly to tackle health inequalities before it gets to a point of no return.”
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