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A report released today shows northerners were more likely to die from COVID-19, spent nearly a month and-a-half more in lockdowns, suffered worse mental health and were made poorer than the rest of England during the first year of the pandemic.
Around half of the increased COVID-19 mortality and two-thirds of the increased all-cause mortality were explained by preventable higher deprivation and worse pre-pandemic health in the North.
The report from the Northern Health Science Alliance, Policy@Manchester and northern National Institute for Health Research Applied Research Collaboratives (NIHR ARCs), has laid clear the devastating impact of the pandemic on people across the North of England.
The report found:
The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the country unevenly with a disproportionate effect on the North of England – increasing regional health and economic divides. The Northern Health Science Alliance commissioned the report to understand the impact of the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic on health and productivity in the North and identify the opportunities for levelling up regional health and productivity.
The report shows the unequal health and economic impacts of COVID-19 on the North with higher rates of COVID-19 related mortality and unemployment.
Report authors make a series of recommendations to Government including:
The University of Liverpool’s Professor David Taylor-Robinson said: “Even before the pandemic we were seeing extremely concerning trends in rising health inequalities with life expectancy going backwards, particularly for women in the most disadvantaged areas in the North of England – the same areas affected by rising poverty and cuts to services that support health.
“The pandemic arrived in the middle of this worrying scene and amplified existing inequalities. As outlined in this new report, poor populations in the North have been hit the hardest in terms of COVID related mortality, and our analysis shows that much of this is due to pre-existing deprivation and poor health. Building back fairer will require long term investment to address the root causes of poor health in the North.”
Dr Luke Munford of University of Manchester said: “The pandemic has hit us all hard in different ways, but our report shows that people living in the North were much more likely to be hardest hit, both in terms of health and wealth. The fact that over half of the increased COVID-19 mortality and two-thirds of all-cause mortality was potentially preventable should be a real wake-up call. We need to invest in the health of people living in the North to ensure they are able to recover from the devastating impacts of the pandemic.”
Professor Clare Bambra of Newcastle University said: “Our report shows how regional health inequalities before COVID have resulted in an unequal pandemic – with higher rates of ill health, death and despair in the North. The economic impact of the lockdown is also looking likely to exacerbate the regional economic divide. The government’s levelling up agenda needs to seriously address health inequalities in the North – for all generations.”
Health Inequalities lead for the Northern Health Science Alliance, Hannah Davies, said: “As we approach autumn with uncertainty around an expected increase in COVID19 cases and with increasing questions about what ‘Levelling Up’ will mean for the North of England it is clear significant action must be taken in tackling health inequalities.
“The Government has made clear its commitment to level up and to tackle health inequalities, this report shows the importance of making that a reality with significant funding to tackle ill health through significant investment into public health and the NHS in the North of England.”
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