ENGLAND'S chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty has been told about East Lancashire's concerns that health inequalities contribution to the coronavirus pandemic locally.

On a recent visit to Blackburn with Darwen he met the council's senior leadership team to discuss the issues which lay behind the borough regularly recording some of the highest rates of Covid-19 in the country.

Professor Whitty met with Blackburn with Darwen Council Chief Executive Denise Park, departmental directors and the public health team.

They told him about the borough’s public health challenges.

They discussed the impact of deprivation, the rising cost of living, and poor housing.

They also discussed education, physical activity, economic growth and employment opportunities in the borough.

The town hall teams gave Professor Whitty an overview of the council’s plans to improve residents’ wellbeing and reduce health inequalities.

Council officers also took the opportunity to offer their reflections on the Covid pandemic and important lessons learned.

Blackburn with Darwen's former public health director Professor Dominic Harrison was a leading voice during the pandemic explaining how health inequalities had contributed to high Covid case rates in the borough, East Lancashire and the North-West.

Professor Whitty praised the strength of local partnerships and their positive contribution to health and wellbeing during the visit.

He said: "It was a very interesting visit to Blackburn with Darwen to learn about the health challenges the local authority is facing and to listen to the public health team’s ideas for how national policy can support them.

"Blackburn with Darwen has shown incredible resilience throughout the pandemic and I was very impressed by the local public health team."

Abdul Razaq, Professor Harrison's successor as borough public health director, said: "The chief medical officer was highly impressed by our commitment to improving the local population’s health and wellbeing, and our collaboration across multiple sectors and partnerships."

Professor Whitty also visited Blackburn Youth Zone to meet representatives of around a dozen organisations from the borough’s voluntary, community and faith sector.

Ms Park said: "We were delighted to welcome Professor Whitty to Blackburn with Darwen and took the opportunity to show him that the borough has a wealth of engaged organisations and a real willingness to collaborate and innovate to address our public health challenges."