Government Must Not Ignore North Health Inequality

The Journal (Newcastle, England), May 21, 2019 | Go to article overview

Government Must Not Ignore North Health Inequality


Byline: Hannah Davies

LAST week, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) announced that inequalities are so pronounced that "democracy is being threatened".

To those of us in the North of England this is no surprise. We've watched as our towns and cities have been ravaged through declining industry and lack of investment, as money has instead poured into the South East of the country leaving a legacy of anger which has seen the rise of populist parties across the region.

Health is the thread that runs through these inequalities, whether physical or mental. The IFS describes "deaths of despair", from such things as addiction and suicide, among the poorest. The further north you travel in this country, the more pronounced the inequality becomes and the poorer the country becomes.

But those seeing the North as a problem are missing the point. The North of England is an opportunity, potential waiting to be unleashed.

In 2014, the North's economy was worth PS304billion, accounting for 19% of UK output. If the North of England was a country, it would be among the biggest economies in Europe.

Despite these opportunities, a productivity gap of PS4 per person per hour persists between the Northern Powerhouse and the rest of England. This prevents our economy from reaching its full potential - to grow the UK we must rebalance our economy.

The Government cannot ignore North/South inequalities any more - and must take action through its Spending Review and Northern Powerhouse Strategy refresh.

The Northern Health Science Alliance's Health for Wealth report, led by Professor Clare Bambra of Newcastle University, demonstrates that ill health in the region directly costs the UK PS13.2bn a year in lost productivity.

Some 30% of the productivity gap between North and South is due to ill health - it cannot be ignored any longer.

If they experience a spell of ill health, working people in the North are 39% more likely to lose their job compared to their counterparts in the rest of England - if they get back in to work, their wages are 66% lower than a similar individual in the rest of England. …

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