A DAMNING report shows northerners were more likely to die from Covid-19, spent nearly a month-and-a-half longer 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 are explained by 'preventable higher deprivation' and 'worse pre-pandemic health' in Northern areas.

The report from the Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA) and Northern National Institute for Health Research Applied Research Collaborations has laid clear the devastating impact of the pandemic on people across the North of England.

It found that people living in the North had a 17 per cent higher mortality rate due to Covid-19 than those in the rest of England. Their mortality rate due to all causes was 14 per cent higher. Similarly, the North’s care home Covid-19 mortality rate was 26 per cent higher than nationwide.

On average, 10 per cent more hospital beds were occupied by Covid-19 patients in the North than in the rest of England.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Increased mortality in the North of England could end up costing the national economy up to £7.3bn in lost productivity. This is likely to be a conservative underestimate, given the North’s economy has also been hardest hit.

On average, people living in the North had 41 more days of the harshest restrictions imposed on them than people in the rest of the country.

The North also experienced a larger drop in mental wellbeing, more loneliness, and higher rates of antidepressant prescriptions: there was a 55 per cent increase in the presence of minor psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety and depression, in the North compared to a 50 per cent increase in the rest of England.

Wages in the North were lower than the rest of England pre-pandemic and these fell even further during the pandemic – from £543.90 to £541.30 per week – whereas wages increased in the rest of the country – from £600.80 to £604.00 per week.

The unemployment rate in the North was also 19 per cent higher than the rest of England pre-pandemic.

The Covid-19 pandemic has hit the country unevenly, with what is clearly a disproportionate effect on the North of England – increasing regional health and economic divides.

The NHSA 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 curators have made a series of recommendations to the Government including place-focused vaccination programmes targeted at vulnerable populations in the North of England, and to increase NHS and local authority resources and service provision for mental health in the North.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Investing in increasing capacity in northern hospitals to help them catch-up on non-Covid-19 health care and make health a key part of an integrated 'levelling up' strategy has also been recommended – among many other short, medium and long-term recommendations.

Dominic Harrison, public health director at Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “This report, on the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on the health and economy of areas such as Pennine Lancashire, is very stark.

“It suggests that there is a productivity gap between the local authorities in the North and the rest of England of £4 per person, per hour.

“There is also a large gap in health between the North and the rest of England, with life expectancy at birth 2-years lower in the North.

“Those local authorities most badly affected by the pandemic have the most to catch-up on if we are to create equal life chances for our residents.

“Thankfully, there are now opportunities to fix this. The NHS has new funding from April onwards, coming from the National Insurance Tax increase of 1.25 per cent. Plus, the Government will soon publish a ‘Whitepaper’, which details its plans for ‘levelling up’.

Lancashire Telegraph:

“Both give central government a real opportunity to help Pennine Lancashire recover and thrive following the unequal impacts of the pandemic.

“Pennine Lancashire has borne much more than its fair share of the nation’s pain during the pandemic.

“Our larger impact from the pandemic was in large part because we had more of our working residents out and about in front line work during lockdowns and keeping the rest of the country moving - whilst many more workers in wealthier southern Local Authority areas were working from home for much of 2020.

“It would be unthinkable if this was not recognised in the forthcoming investment priorities from the NHS and central government.

“It is also important to stress that ‘levelling up’ is not a zero-sum game. It is not about taking wealth from the South and giving it to the North.

“Levelling up the North through increased health and wellbeing funding in particular, is probably the single most important investment national government can now make to grow the overall GDP of the UK, and that benefits everyone.”