A new report by the Northern Health Science Alliance also found those residing in the north of England had a 26 percent higher mortality rate in care homes than the rest of England. Academics at the institute analysed government statistics to investigate the extent of the pandemic’s impacts on the North East, North West and Yorkshire compared to the rest of England.
Public health experts explained that much of the blame for the increased mortality rates could be down to increasing rates of deprivation with pre-pandemic health in the North not being up to standards.
One author of the study said the fact that two-thirds of deaths in the pandemic were potentially preventable was a “real wake-up call” to society.
The report conservatively estimates the economic cost of the increased mortality in the North during the pandemic at £6.86bn and the reductions in mental health in the region due to the pandemic at around £5bn a year.
The increased mortality rates in the Northern Powerhouse remains significant even after accounting for deprivation, ethnicity and the age-structure of the population. Figures show austerity simultaneously put the region in a more vulnerable position by reducing health and wellbeing, and cost the UK around £2 billion a year in lost productivity, with over £16 billion lost since 2011.
READ MORE: Michael Caine health: ‘My days are numbered’
The report led by scientists from Newcastle University, the University of Manchester, University of York and University of Liverpool also found:
- Mental and financial wellbeing was hardest hit in the North, as well as loneliness.
- Reductions in mental wellbeing in the Northern Powerhouse could cost the UK economy £5 billion in reduced productivity
The data – collated from March 2020 to March 2021 – also discovered:
- Lower pre-pandemic wages which fell further, with wages increasing in the rest of England
- Pre-pandemic child health was poor and deteriorating in the North.
With fewer jobs, lower wages and more COVID-19 related deaths than the rest of England, it is not just the mental wellbeing of the North but also its economy that has been hit harder than the rest of the country, according to the report.
With inequalities between the North and the rest of the country exacerbated, the study found the pandemic hit the North harder and more deeply and that mitigating measures must be put in place to stop inequalities rising further and faster.
Professor Clare Bambra, Professor of Public Health, Newcastle University, 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.”
Professor Bambra has called for measures such as placing additional resources into the Test and Trace system in the Northern Powerhouse and delivering them through local primary care, public health, NHS labs and local authority services to ensure full population coverage.
“We need to significantly ‘level up’ the country by providing immediate additional support to local authorities and devolved administrations in the North – and by investing further in public health prevention in the Northern Powerhouse. In this way, we can reduce the inequalities that the pandemic has highlighted and ensure that our regions are better equipped for building back better,” the lead author of the report said.
The report’s authors called for the government to boost funding for northern hospitals and social care – including non-COVID-19 care – in order for them to catch up with the rest of the country.
Doctor Luke Munford, Lecturer in Health Economics at the University of Manchester, said: The findings in this report reaffirm the results of our earlier analyses that showed the inextricable link between health and wealth.
“The Northern Powerhouse, on average, has been hit harder by COVID-19 than the rest of England in terms of both health and wealth outcomes.”
Doctor Munford also said that the report revealed the interconnectedness between the North and the rest of England: “The fact that these regional inequalities persist even after we account for deprivation and other known determinants means that there are other factors at play.
“These regional inequalities need to be addressed fast, or we risk letting the Northern Powerhouse fall further behind. A sensible place to start would be improving the health of people living in the Northern Powerhouse.”
Professor Bambra said: “The levelling up agenda needs to be centred on health, it cannot just be about trains and bridges.”
Though, the report did reveal a portion of good news for Northern counties with a higher percentage of people being vaccinated in the area than the rest of England.
The Department of Health and Social Care recognised the virus had a “disproportionate impact on certain groups” and said Public Health England carried out a “rapid review to better understand factors like ethnicity, obesity and deprivation”.
According to a government spokesperson, the vaccine rollout “has built a wall of defence across the country and a new Office for Health Improvement and Disparities will improve and level up the nation’s health”.