“Longer and healthier lives for all our people, regardless of what they earn or where they live” – £35 million plan to tackle inequalities in the North East

A £35 million three-year programme for the North East is set to bring together the NHS, local authorities and VCSE networks to tackle inequalities and prevent ill health, focusing on initiatives to attract and retain GPs in the most deprived areas and offering extra support to those waiting for surgery, particularly the most vulnerable groups.

Announcing the plan, NHS North East and North Cumbria ICS noted that the area “has faced long-standing inequalities and poor health for decades, while the North East suffers the worst levels of preventable mortality in the country”.

The plan places focus on preventing ill health from occurring in the first place and supports the ICB’s wider goals to improve health, cut suicide rates, and raise healthy life expectance.

Among the initiatives that the funding will support are investments in the ‘Deep End’ network of GP practices in some of the region’s most deprived areas, with extra training and support to be made available to encourage trainee doctors to build their careers in these practices. These practices will also have the opportunity to take part in a range of initiatives for improving care, for example having psychologists on-site so that patients can receive mental health support without need for referrals. In addition, the ‘waiting well’ programme will see extra provision of support for people waiting for surgery, particularly socially and clinically vulnerable groups, with the aim of giving them the best chance of a good surgical outcome and recovery.

Earlier this year, the Health Foundation, King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust published a joint letter to political leaders on the NHS’s future. The letter stresses the importance of “improving the underlying social and economic conditions that shape the health of the nation – like people’s income, education, jobs, housing and food”, in order to safeguard the health service.

In other news from the region, the North East and North Cumbria was awarded £250,000 by the Health Foundation at the start of 2023 for its Learning and Community Network, which will support collaboration in prevention and social care services with the aim of improving health and care services in the area.

The ICS’s latest strategy also identifies two of its aims as reducing inequalities in life expectancy and ensuring fairer outcomes for all, highlighting the importance of collaboration in achieving better health in the community.