14-year life expectancy gap between different areas of Northumberland sparks call to tackle health inequalities

Northumberland’s director of public health has challenged NHS commissioners to do more to help eradicate the county’s inequalities.

Wednesday, 25th September 2019, 6:05 pm
Updated Wednesday, 25th September 2019, 11:28 pm
Picture from Pixabay

Statistics show the more deprived the council ward you live in, the less likely you are to have a long and healthy life.

In Northumberland, a girl born to parents living in Ponteland South with Heddon can expect to live almost 14 years longer than one born in Cowpen in Blyth.

The gap in healthy life expectancy (years lived in good health) at birth for females is even higher between these two wards at 21 years.

Siobhan Brown, NHS Northumberland CCG’s chief operating officer, said there was an opportunity to be really ambitious.

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Speaking at a meeting of NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group's (CCG) governing body, director of public health Liz Morgan said: "All of it is driven by social injustice and that's what we need to deal with.

"It's daunting and it's a huge task, it's worse than turning round the tanker."

However, her report looked at successful initiatives which are taking place elsewhere in the country which are already being developed or used in Northumberland.

Ms Morgan suggested mapping out what is already happening in the county using a population intervention triangle - which reflects how joint working across councils, healthcare and communities is needed to tackle these issues - in order to discover where the gaps are.

Her report set out a series of recommendations for the CCG, which included finding ways of shifting resources to more deprived areas, investing in prevention and community-centred approaches, and systematically looking at data through an inequalities lens.

The CCG’s chief operating officer, Siobhan Brown, agreed to take this forward and produce a report on what the organisation can do, saying: “I think we have an incredible chance to be ambitious.”

The full list of recommendations in Ms Morgan’s report are as follows. That the CCG’s governing body:

:: Recognises the role that the NHS should play in addressing the wider determinants of health and as an anchor institution;

:: Strengthens community action, service engagement with communities and collaboration and integration between the NHS, social care, local authority and the VCSE (voluntary, community and social enterprise sector);

:: Identifies and commits to mechanisms to enable unequal, higher-per-head NHS funding in more deprived areas.

:: Where possible, invests an increasing proportion of the CCG budget in primary care and prevention, including funding for community-centred approaches (for example, the locality coordinators) and the VCSE to build capacity;

:: Systematically collect, share and act on data on health inequalities within the Northumberland population (including inequalities in access, quality and outcomes of services) and use the best available evidence to apply a proportionate universalism approach;

:: Recognise poor housing, financial insecurity, debt and unemployment as determinants of health and prioritise the work of social prescribing link workers accordingly;

:: Work with the other parts of the public sector in Northumberland to develop a social value framework and embed social value considerations into all policies, decisions and public procurement, contributing to the Northumberland economy through local procurement and investment;

:: Become even greater advocates locally and nationally for public health interventions to reduce health inequalities.