An inquiry into how health inequalities shaped people’s experience of the Covid-19 pandemic has been launched by independent charity, the Health Foundation.
The inquiry will also examine the national response to Covid and the short and long-term impact this has had on health and health inequality in the UK.
The Health Foundation said the findings, due to be published in the summer of 2021, ‘will guide the action needed as the country recovers, to ensure everyone has the opportunity to lead long and healthy lives’.
The inquiry will analyse factors that need to be addressed going forward, it added, and will aim to learn lessons from the positive ways in which communities adapted to face new challenges.
An expert advisory panel will be led by Clare Moriarty, a former civil service permanent secretary, and will include Sir Michael Marmot, professor of epidemiology at University College London and Lord Victor Adebowale, non-executive director of Nuffield Health.
A wide range of sources and diverse groups from across the UK will also be asked to inform the inquiry, the Health Foundation added.
Scale of inequality
The launch of the inquiry coincides with new research from the charity, which showed that poorer areas are more likely to have experienced some of the highest Covid-19 death rates and an increasing level of financial hardship.
Of the 10 areas in Britain with the highest Covid death rates, half are also among the poorest local authorities, the research found.
It also found that the share of the working age population receiving Universal Credit increased by 8% in the poorest areas between March and August, compared with 5% in the wealthiest.
The Health Foundation warned of a ‘double whammy’ facing Britain’s poorest communities, in the form of health and financial hardship due to the pandemic and the subsequent response.
In May, Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures revealed that people from deprived parts of England and Wales were dying from coronavirus at more than twice the rate of those in more affluent areas.
‘Bigger picture of pandemic impact’
Clare Moriarty, chair of the Covid-19 impact inquiry, said: ‘It is not just the virus that has affected people’s health but also measures introduced in response. People have lost jobs and income, seen medical treatment cancelled and been asked to stay indoors for weeks on end. Children and young people have missed out on their education and opportunities to build social lives.
‘Across the country, people’s health and mental wellbeing has been affected and, as this research shows, the pandemic is intensifying and amplifying existing health inequalities.’
She added: ‘The Covid-19 impact inquiry aims to join up all these different issues to build a bigger picture of the impact the pandemic has had on our communities across the UK.
‘We believe the findings will provide the Government with a solid evidence base to inform their recovery policies and tackle these very big issues of inequality to ensure that everyone’s health and wellbeing is protected in the long term.’