Health should be the new wealth, says a joint report from Yorkshire & Humber Academic Health Science Network (AHSN), the NHS Confederation and Yorkshire Universities launched on Tuesday 14 July 2020.

The report underlines key messages of the February 2020 Marmot report which said: Reinvesting in areas that have seen the greatest reduction in resources, such as regions in the North, is very important to reduce short and long term health inequalities. Some areas, especially in the North, have been ignored and left behind, as health has improved elsewhere in England.

The report’s authors say bold actions are needed by local and national leadership to embed a renewed focus on health, tackle long-standing regional inequalities, and level up future investment in Yorkshire’s health and life sciences assets as we begin living with and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

Health inequalities undermine Yorkshire and the Humber’s economic potential and the North clearly lags behind the rest of the country – there is a two-year gap in life expectancy between the North and the South, with people in the North 20% more likely to die early.

Addressing health inequalities and focusing on health and wealth together is at the heart of the report. There is a tremendous opportunity in Yorkshire and the Humber to use the area’s unique assets as an economy to improve health and wellbeing, whilst contributing to inclusive economic growth: meaning a fairer society where everyone benefits. However, this hinges on greater regional investment from central government.

The report recognises the devastating impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the Northern economy, and says prompt action is even more urgent than ever if the population’s mental health and wellbeing is to go unscathed, the economic aftershock of the pandemic is to be overcome, and the government is to deliver on its promise of ‘levelling up’ the North. Exaggerated by the pandemic, the economic output and employment in Yorkshire and the Humber is expected to decline by more than the UK average in 2020, and lag behind the UK average in 2021.

The report is also launched at a time when leaders across the NHS and social care are calling for a ‘reset’ to the way we plan, commission and deliver health and care, building on the rapid progress already made during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Richard Stubbs, Chief Executive of the Yorkshire and Humber Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) said: “We have over 650 health and life sciences companies within Yorkshire and the Humber – more than Oxford and Cambridge combined. These institutions played a significant civic role before the pandemic, and COVID-19 has only accelerated this contribution. The regional joint working we have seen throughout the pandemic must continue as we begin to rebuild and recover. It means anchor institutions – hospitals, universities, local and combined authorities – all working together to engage communities and other partners, but also boosting the role they themselves play as large employers and significant contributors and influencers within the local economy.

“Yorkshire and the Humber as a region does not punch its weight in terms of economic output and positive health outcomes. We have a real opportunity to utilise the region’s assets and ‘shake things up’: creating a real difference across the region for the benefit of its population. We have already made some fantastic progress, however we desperately need additional investment and support from central government to truly realise the region’s potential.”

The report makes a series of recommendations aimed at local and national government. On a national level, the report recommends increased focus on five key areas as part of a sustained focus on health within policy and decision making:

  • Increase health research and development spending in Yorkshire and the Humber
  • Empower local leaders with the tools to improve health outcomes and deliver inclusive growth and wider prosperity
  • Give greater priority to wellbeing in investment decisions
  • Ensure health is included as an outcome in all economic development policies
  • Embed health as a priority for all government departments.

The launch of the report marks the start of a campaign to engage opinion formers and decision makers at all levels – local, regional and national – to raise awareness and develop prompt actions as set out in the report’s recommendations.

Read the full report: ‘Levelling Up Yorkshire and Humber: health as the new wealth post-COVID’.

Find out more about the Health and Care Reset and how AHSNs are supporting.