NORTHERNERS were more likely to die from Covid-19, spent nearly a month and-a-half more in lockdowns, suffered worse mental health and were made poorer than the rest of England during the first year of the pandemic.

The stark findings are part of a new report which found around half of the increased Covid-19 mortality and two-thirds of the increased all-cause mortality were explained by preventable higher deprivation and worse pre-pandemic health in the North of England.

The report from the Northern Health Science Alliance (NHSA), Policy@Manchester and northern National Institute for Health Research Applied Research Collaborations, has laid bare the devastating impact of the pandemic on people in the area.

Research has found that people living in the North had a 17 per cent higher mortality rate due to Covid than those in the rest of England - the mortality rate due to all causes in the North was 14 per cent higher.

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In care homes, the mortality rate was 26 per cent higher than the rest of England with 10 per cent more hospital beds occupied by Covid patients. It has also been suggested that the increased mortality rates in the North of England could cost the national economy up to £7.3bn in lost productivity.

On average, people living in the North had 41 more days of the harshest restrictions than people in the rest of the country.

Meanwhile, residents experienced a larger drop in mental wellbeing, more loneliness, and higher rates of antidepressant prescriptions.

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Wages in the North were lower than the rest of England before the pandemic and these fell further during the pandemic (from £543.90 to £541.30 per week) whereas wages increased in the rest of the country.

Overall, the unemployment rate in the North was 19 per cent higher than the rest of England.

Now the report's authors are calling for a support package to help the region recover: to increase NHS and local authority resources and service provision for mental health; recommit to ending child poverty by increasing child benefit; and deliver a £1bn fund ring-fenced to tackle health inequalities at a regional level.

"The Covid-19 pandemic has hit the country unevenly with a disproportionate effect on the North of England – increasing regional health and economic divides," the NHSA said.

"The NHSA commissioned the report to understand the impact of the first year of the pandemic on health and productivity in the North and identify the opportunities for levelling up regional health and productivity.

"The report shows the unequal health and economic impacts of Covid-19 on the North with higher rates of Covid-related mortality and unemployment."

The Northern Echo: Professor Clare BambraProfessor Clare Bambra

Professor Clare Bambra, of Newcastle University, said regional health inequalities have lead to an "unequal pandemic".

"The economic impact of the lockdown is also looking likely to exacerbate the regional economic divide. The government’s levelling up agenda needs to seriously address health inequalities in the North – for all generations," she added.

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