Calls for investment to turn around Hartlepool's ranking as one of the unhealthiest places to live in the country
There have been calls for the Government to plough resources into addressing the underlying causes of Hartlepool being ranked the fifth unhealthiest place in England.
The town came fifth bottom in a new index on the nation’s health by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and financial services company Lane Clark & Peacock (LCP) based on a range of health factors.
Hartlepool’s MP Mike Hill says Whitehall must focus on the social and economic factors contributing to the town’s health inequalities he says have been made worse by the pandemic.
He said: “We need the proper resources and tools to tackle this ongoing problem, including greater investment to encourage meaningful job growth to help lift families out of poverty.”
Mr Hill said differences in life expectancy and health and wellbeing between the North and South were identified by Professor Sir Michael Marmot back in 2010.
The same year, he said the incoming Conservative government scuppered plans for a new state-of-the art hospital for Hartlepool at Wynyard.
And he said increased marketisation of the NHS and the Government’s austerity agenda had done a lot of damage to health and public services.
He added: "There is in place a joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy for 2011 to 2025 in which Hartlepool Borough Council pledged to tackle many of the issues outlined in the Marmot Report, like poverty and isolation and mental health.
“But while some progress has been made, the pandemic has undoubtedly set us back. Life expectancy in the town remains among the lowest in the country for both men and women.
"The number of under 16’s living in low income households remains high and we still have some of the most deprived wards in England in terms of income deprivation.
“The report produced by LCP using ONS data clearly shows that back in 2018 there was a clear North/South divide, a situation which continues today and one which is likely to have been exacerbated by Covid-19.”
A Hartlepool Borough Council spokesman added: “We are aware of the challenges facing Hartlepool residents in terms of health, which is why we are working with our partners to tackle these issues through a Health and Wellbeing Strategy which includes a wide range of initiatives designed to tackle the health inequalities in the town.”
Sacha Bedding, chief executive of the Wharton Trust, which works to empower Dyke House residents to improve their lives, said they were well aware of the town’s health inequalities.
He said: “The things which cause ill health are really quite complex but we all know that there are lots of people in the town whose poor health badly impacts them and their loved ones.”
He said it was difficult to balance the economic growth of the town without damaging health-related assets such as by building new houses on greenbelt land.
Mr Bedding added: “What we really need to see is a new anchor investor that offers multi-generational long term economic stability and employment so that people have a better chance of getting a good well paying secure job and inspires our young people to believe they have an economic future within the town.”