Adults younger than 65 living in the poorest 10% of neighbourhoods in England were nearly four times as likely to die from Covid-19 than those in the wealthiest, an inquiry has found.
Conducted over nine months and published this morning (6 July), the Health Foundation’s inquiry found that mortality was 3.7 times greater for these people compared to those in England’s wealthiest areas.
The report said that this heightened risk was as a result of poorer underlying health pre-pandemic, with people in their 50s and 60s in these areas already twice as likely to have at least two long-term health conditions such as lung disease or diabetes.
Compared with other European countries, excess mortality among people younger than 65 in the UK was second only to Bulgaria, it said.
As of July, 128,000 people in the UK have died with Covid-19, with 113,000 of those in England.
This report is the latest to highlight the impact deprivation has had on Covid-19 health outcomes.
Last month, it was found that adults in the most deprived areas were more than three times likely to be Covid vaccine hesitant, while another report found that new primary care recruits likely to be ‘skewed’ toward wealthier areas without PCN intervention.
Nation’s health ‘frayed’
The Health Foundation described how the UK entered the pandemic with life expectancy stalling for the first time in a century, with public services ‘eroded’ following the 2008 financial crisis.
It added that for people in the workplace, a physical injury doubles the likelihood that a person will be less productive, while poor mental health triples the chance.
‘The nation’s health has frayed over the past decade and this has contributed to the UK experiencing some of the poorest global outcomes from the Covid-19 pandemic,’ it said.
It concluded that a government strategy to reduce health inequalities should be laid before parliament to ensure the country’s pandemic recovery improves overall health and the economy.
Tackling care backlog
The Health Foundation called for ‘immediate action’ to address the harm caused by the pandemic and prevent longer term scarring effects.
This should include tackling the backlog for care – which currently sits at around 5.1 million people – and increasing mental health support to help people back into work, protecting family finances, it said.
Similarly, the Government must introduce an ‘adequate safety net’ to cope with future income and health shocks, providing greater protections for low-paid workers.
Meanwhile, the Foundation warned that ‘change is not purely about additional spend’, referring to the ‘levelling up’ scheme: a £4.8bn funded strategy aiming to address regional disparities.
It suggested that the Government can place a ‘greater focus on using resources wisely’ and taking a ‘prevention first’ approach to enable better spending through local government.
In May, a House of Lords committee urged the Government to publish a white paper for its levelling up scheme.
It said at the time that the current spending plans for the NHS did not take ‘adequate account’ of post-pandemic pressure, and that Government funding promises would fail to meet the post-pandemic demand for public services.
It comes after the Prime Minister announced plans yesterday to remove all remaining Covid restrictions by 19 July.