CMO releases coastal wellbeing report

The Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty, has released a report that analyses the health of coastal communities and has set out a plan of action to help improve wellbeing.

The report, Health in Coastal Communities, was collated over the past year and has recommended a new cross-government national strategy to tackle the issues faced in the communities. The CMO worked closely with Directors of Public Health in areas such as Hartlepool, Blackpool, Hull and covered large port cities to smaller coastal villages.

The health risk factors that are prevalent in coastal communities include smoking, and alcohol, with Morecambe and Hastings having high rates of hospital admission for alcohol-related harm. Another indicator is that, across health and wellbeing, a town like Blackpool has more in common with coastal regions like Torbay, than it has with Preston, which is just 18 miles further inland.

Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty, said: “Coastal areas are some the most beautiful, vibrant and historic places in the country. They also have some of the worst health outcomes with low life expectancy and high rates of many major diseases. These communities have often been overlooked by governments and the ill-health hidden because their outcomes are merged with wealthier inland areas. 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.”

Staffing is a major concern outlined in the report, and a major barrier to staffing levels in coastal regions suggested is that it can be harder to procure staff in these areas.

The document highlights a warning sign is through comparing coastal staffing levels to those who live inland with 14.6% fewer postgraduate medical trainees, 15% fewer consultants and 7.4% fewer nurses per patient than the national average.

The CMO concludes his report with 3 steps to address the problems found in coastal regions:

  • 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.

The report is available here.