THE Government has been warned it must invest in a “true Northern asset” in order to improve the health of the region’s population and close the North-South divide.

Think-tank IPPR North said the region’s thriving life sciences and health sector was threatened by Brexit, because of the level of funding received from Europe and the benefits provided by EU-wide regulation.

A report ‘Health Innovation: Breathing Life into the Northern Powerhouse’ also said there was a “clear link” between investment in research and health outcomes with research-active healthcare trusts also seeing lower patient death rates following emergency admissions.

This was vital for the North, it said, where health outcomes are poorer compared to the South.

In the North-East the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), which has bases in Wilton, Redcar, Darlington and Sedgefield, has been supporting revolutionary work to transform diabetes treatment, among other projects.

Several of the region’s hospital trusts have also fostered close links with universities, who are described as “catalysts of innovation”.

The likes of Newcastle University has become a world leading hub in respect of ageing and Alzheimer’s research.

Across the North, almost 600,000 people are employed in life sciences and health and the sector has a significant economic impact.

But the report said Government research funding wasn’t harnessing its potential and the sector in the North should be placed at the heart of the Government’s industrial strategy.

The new Department for International Trade should also invest resources to promote the sector internationally, particularly in the American, Asian and Commonwealth markets, it said.

Luke Raikes, senior research fellow at IPPR North, said: “The health sciences sector is a true northern asset.

“Its innovation will help close the North-South health gap and grow the Northern economy. This is even more important as we move toward Brexit.

“The Government should take note of the level of private sector investment in the North, and use a fifth of its research pot to give the North the catch-up cash it needs.”

Siobhan McArdle, chief executive of South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and board member of the Northern Health Science Alliance, which consists of the top eight North universities, eight NHS teaching Trusts and four academic health science networks, said: “This new report highlights the strengths of both the frontline services the NHS provides and the important research environment that is helping to deliver new treatments for patients.

“It is important that we continue to support our health economies as this report shows they are key pillar of the wider economic development of our great city regions.”