Northumbria Healthcare’s inequalities lead joins commission on health and prosperity – Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Dr Jonathan Pearson-Stuttard chairs the NHS trust’s Health Inequalities Programme Board (HIPB), which was set up last year with the goal of identifying exactly what the inequalities are in communities in Northumberland and North Tyneside in order to developing meaningful ways of tackling them.

This week, it was announced that Dr Pearson-Stuttard, who is also head of LCP’s Health Analytics team, will be sitting as vice-chair on the cross-party IPPR Health and Prosperity Commission, chaired by leading surgeon Professor the Lord Ara Darzi and former Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies.

The commission will work for two years to better understand the interconnections between health and the economy and to set out a blueprint to harness the full potential of better health for all.

Other members include Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and former Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Sir Oliver Letwin, along with senior figures from health, business, economics, and trade unions.

The commission has been launched on the back of a report by LCP and thinktank IPPR which highlights that there are now more than a million workers missing from the workforce compared to the pre-pandemic trend and about 400,000 of these are no longer working because of health factors, such as chronic diseases like diabetes, as well as long Covid, disruption to healthcare and declining mental health. IPPR estimates that this could impact economic activity this year by £8 billion.

Some of the key findings in the report are:

  • Health and regional inequality – People living in the most economically deprived parts of the country can on average expect to fall into poor health their late 50s, five years earlier than the national average and 12 years sooner than people living in the healthiest area in the country. This is largely down to factors like low-quality housing, bad jobs, low wages and chronic stress, the report argues.
  • Health and productivity – Local level analysis reveals that in some parts of the country the output of people’s work is also valued at £8 less an hour than the average. The report says this is a vicious cycle – factors like lack of job opportunities and poverty can harm people’s health; in turn, poor health can undermine people’s work and a place’s productivity.
  • Health and poverty – If rates of child poverty and unemployment in the unhealthiest local authorities met rates in the healthiest local authorities, we would see 430,000 fewer children in poverty and 420,000 more adults in work.

Dr Pearson-Stuttard said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has illustrated the inextricable link between health, our economic prosperity and inequalities. The pandemic must serve as a catalyst for us to re-position health as an opportunity to level up society and embed sustainable prosperity for future generations.

“I’m delighted to be vice-chair of this cross-party commission to help determine a blueprint that will not just help the NHS, but also improve people’s lives and reduce inequality.”

Alongside the work of its HIPB, Northumbria Healthcare has recognised the key links between health and the economy and the role it can play as an anchor institution in Northumberland, North Tyneside and the wider region through its Community Promise.

Launched last year, this is a pledge to focus on all the ways it can improve people’s lives based on six key pillars, which relate to the wider factors that fuel health inequalities – poverty, employment, education, economy, environment, wellbeing.

Dr Pearson-Stuttard added: “There are lots of synergies with the purpose of the commission and the aims of the trust’s inequalities programme board, public health work and our Community Promise. There will be lots of useful insights for the commission from the trust’s work and I look forward to applying learnings from the commission to our work to benefit our local populations.”

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