Chief Medical Officer seeks national strategy to improve health of coastal communities such as Blackpool and Morecambe

Professor Chris Whitty has recommended a cross-government national strategy to improve the health of coastal communities, as part of his 2021 Annual Report.

Wednesday, 21st July 2021, 8:40 am

The report highlights how coastal communities continue to have a high burden of health challenges across a range of physical and mental health conditions.

The CMO developed the report over the last year and is recommending a cross-government national strategy be developed to improve the health of coastal communities.

"These communities have often been overlooked by governments and the ill-health hidden because their outcomes are merged with wealthier inland areas," Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Professor Chris Whitty, said.

According to the analysis, Blackpool is the most deprived local authority in England, and also experiences the lowest life expectancy in England for both males and females.

"A national strategy informed by local leaders and experts will help reduce inequalities and preventable ill health.

"If we do not tackle the health problems of coastal communities vigorously and systematically there will be a long tail of preventable ill health which will get worse as current populations age."

Major points from the report include:

- Older, retired citizens - who have more and increasing health problems - often settle in coastal regions but without the same access to healthcare as urban inland areas.

Professor Chris Whitty has recommended a cross-government national strategy to improve the health and wellbeing of coastal communities, as part of his 2021 Annual Report.

In smaller seaside towns, 31% of the resident population was aged 65 years or over in 2019, compared to just 22% in smaller non-coastal towns.

- Difficulties in attracting NHS and social care staff to peripheral areas is a common issue.

The report found coastal communities have 14.6% fewer postgraduate medical trainees, 15% fewer consultants and 7.4% fewer nurses per patient than the national average despite higher healthcare needs.

- An oversupply of guest housing has led to Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMOs) which lead to concentrations of deprivation and ill health.

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Another important theme was that the underlying factors in coastal communities with poor health outcomes share more similarities with other coastal areas than their nearest inland neighbours.

For example, in terms of health characteristics, a resort town like Blackpool and Morecambe has more in common with Hastings, Skegness or Torbay than with Preston, just 18 miles inland.

The report highlights the paradox that coastal areas are generally intrinsically healthier than their inland counterparts due to the physical and mental health benefits to living near the coast, including better access to outdoor spaces for exercise, social contact and lower air pollution.

The CMO makes three key recommendations:

- There should be a cross-government national strategy to improve the health and wellbeing of coastal communities, incorporating key drivers such as housing, environment, education, employment and transport.

- The current mismatch between health and social care worker deployment and disease in coastal areas needs to be addressed. This should be actioned by Health Education England (HEE) and NHS England and Improvement (NHSE/I).

- There needs to be a substantial improvement on the lack of granular data and actionable research into the health needs of coastal communities and research funders need to provide incentives for research aimed specifically at improving coastal community health.

According to the analysis, Blackpool is the 'most deprived local authority in England', and experiences the lowest life expectancy in the country for both males and females.

Dr Arif Rajpura, Director of Public Health for Blackpool Council said: "Blackpool, like many other seaside towns has its strengths as well as it’s challenges.

"Housing, especially poor quality private rented, is a significant contributor to poor health in the town.

"Tackling the failed private sector housing, especially the large number of houses of multiple occupation (HMOs) will be key to tackling health inequalities in coastal towns."

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