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Covid: More deaths and lower wages in north of England, report reveals


People in northern England were 17% more likely to die with Covid than the rest of the country, official figures have revealed.
A report by the Northern Health Science Alliance also found northerners had a 26% higher mortality rate in care homes than elsewhere in England. 
One author said the fact two-thirds of deaths in the pandemic were potentially preventable was a "real wake-up call".
The government said the impact on certain groups was "disproportionate". 
Academics analysed government statistics to show the impact of the pandemic on people in the North East, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber.
They found about half of the increased deaths of people with Covid and two-thirds of the increased mortalities from all causes were explained by preventable higher deprivation and worse pre-pandemic health in the North. 
Graphic showing deaths with Covid-19 on death certificate
The report, called A Year of Covid-19 in the North: Regional inequalities in health and economic outcomes, also found people in the North compared to the rest of England:
Spent almost six weeks longer in lockdowns.
Experienced a larger drop in mental wellbeing, more loneliness, and higher rates of anti-depressant prescriptions.
Had lower pre-pandemic wages which fell further, whereas wages increased in the rest of the country.
The data, from March 2020 to March 2021, also showed: 
Unemployment rate in the North was 19% higher than the rest of England.
There were 10% more hospital beds in the North occupied by Covid patients than the rest of the country.
Dr Luke Munford, a lecturer in health economics at Manchester University, said: "Our report shows that people living in the North were much more likely to be hardest hit, both in terms of health and wealth.
"The fact over half of the increased Covid-19 mortality and two-thirds of all-cause mortality was potentially preventable should be a real wake-up call."
He said the government needed to invest in health in the North "to ensure [northerners] were able to recover from the devastating impacts of the pandemic".
In February, Salim Master, 50, died from Covid in Preston. 
His brother Dil Masters told BBC North West Tonight he was scared about the winter to come.
"You look at the section of the cemetery, especially the Muslim side, and it is just full. 
"Many are concerned about the next few months," he said.
Clare Bambra, professor of public health at Newcastle University, said the study highlighted how regional health inequalities before Covid have resulted in an unequal pandemic, with higher rates of ill health, death and despair in the North.
"The economic impact of the lockdown is also looking likely to exacerbate the regional economic divide," she said.
"The government's levelling up agenda needs to seriously address health inequalities in the North, for all generations."
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The report authors called for the government to boost funding for northern hospitals to allow them to catch up, including on non-Covid care.
Prof Bambra said: "The levelling up agenda needs to be centred on health, it cannot just be about trains and bridges."
She said there was some good news for the North as the report had showed a higher percentage of people had been vaccinated in the area than across the country. 
The Department of Health and Social Care acknowledged the virus had a "disproportionate impact on certain groups" and said Public Health England carried out a "rapid review to better understand factors like ethnicity, obesity and deprivation".
The vaccine rollout "has built a wall of defence across the country" and a new Office for Health Improvement and Disparities will improve and level up the nation's health, a spokesperson said. 
The government had invested billions of pounds in welfare support throughout the pandemic, they added.