Scarborough praised by Professor Sir Chris Whitty as leading light in tackling the ravages of Covid-19

Efforts to help Yorkshire’s most popular seaside town recover from the ravages of the Covid-19 pandemic have been praised by England’s Chief Medical Officer amid serious concerns over the impact of coronavirus on the nation’s coastal communities.

Professor Sir Chris Whitty has witnessed first-hand the work which is being undertaken in Scarborough to counter the profound impact that the Covid-19 crisis has had on the North Yorkshire resort.

He saw the grassroots efforts in communities and at Scarborough Hospital, and how the area is rebuilding its social, health and economic sectors following the effects of the pandemic.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

The visit followed Sir Chris’s annual report last year in which he highlighted issues in coastal communities which have higher rates of poor health and lower life expectancies and how they are enduring major deprivation.

Professor Sir Chris Whitty is pictured with Louise Wallace, North Yorkshire’s Director of Public Health (right), and Dr Victoria Turner, a North Yorkshire public health consultant, during his visit to Scarborough to witness work that is under way to counter the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo: North Yorkshire County Council)

Sir Chris said: “It’s been a real privilege to come to talk to colleagues in Scarborough doing an amazing job to support the local communities on health and also social care.

“There are many difficulties in terms of providing health care in coastal areas, but Scarborough is being incredibly innovative in the way that it does that and I’ve learnt so much.”

Among the initiatives highlighted to him was a scheme to produce Scarborough’s first nursing graduates this summer, as well as speech and language development in early years pupils funded via the Government’s Opportunity Area Programme.

He also learnt of the work to attract and retain teachers to the coast and to bring employers that offer skills-based, longer-term employment rather than short-term seasonal jobs.

During his visit, Sir Chris was joined by senior officials from the county including Louise Wallace, North Yorkshire’s Director of Public Health.

She said: “There is a can-do attitude to tackle health inequalities and improve educational opportunities and develop the skills-base of the area. We were glad to show Prof Whitty the huge range of work that is going on to improve people’s lives.”

Sir Chris was also shown The Street project, which is owned and managed by Coast and Vale Community Action, one of the organisations funded by North Yorkshire County Council’s Stronger Communities Programme to provide an emergency response to Covid-19.

It houses facilities such as a sports hall, music rooms and a climbing wall used by young people and groups working with pre-school children.

He also visited the Rainbow Centre which is funded by a range of partners and provides a food bank, a community café and debt advice, and supports people who are homeless as well as asylum seekers and Afghan refugees.

Sir Chris also toured Scarborough Hospital to learn about the challenges which the workforce is facing as well as the support that is being provided in the wake of coronavirus.

He has called for a national strategy to tackle the higher burden of physical and mental health conditions in coastal communities.

In his annual report published in July last year, he highlighted that despite efforts to address problems, coastal communities and port cities have some of the worst health outcomes in England, with low life expectancy and high rates of many major diseases.

Blackpool has the worst life expectancy in the UK, while one in five pregnant women in Hull smoke – twice the England average – and the estimated prevalence of opiate drugs and crack cocaine is also double the national rate.