Community health
People in most deprived areas twice as likely to die from Covid-19

By - Integrated Care Journal

The Covid-19 mortality rate in the most deprived neighbourhoods in England is more than twice that of the most affluent areas, says the Independent SAGE group.

In a new report on health inequalities, the group also reveals that people in the lowest-paid occupations are twice as likely as professionals and business leaders to die from Covid-19.

The report highlights that overcrowded housing, an increased risk of exposure in the workplace and on public transport, inadequate sickness benefits and financial support to self-isolate, a lack of access to health and social care services and a higher incidence of pre-existing health conditions are all contributing factors to higher rates of illness and death in the poorest communities.

In England, 45 per cent of patients admitted to hospital with Covid-19 were from the most deprived 20 per cent of the population and over 50 per cent of those admitted to critical care were from the 40 per cent most deprived areas.

Emergency responses to the pandemic, such as lockdowns, school closures, and reduced NHS services for non-Covid patients, were also revealed to have a greater social and economic impact on the most vulnerable communities, according to the report, which was co-authored by Professor Clare Bambra and Professor Allyson Pollock of Newcastle University.

“Covid-19 is an unequal pandemic – impacting most on the most deprived areas. It is exacerbating health and economic inequalities across our society,” said Professor Clare Bambra.

The report on Covid-19 and Health Inequality sets out 20 key recommendations to support those at the greatest risk of adverse outcomes from the pandemic. The recommendations include:

  • Testing services should be integrated with clinical care and provided locally to address inequalities in the ability to get to testing centres and to facilitate the management of preexisting conditions.
  • Adequate financial support should be provided for those self-isolating 
  • Occupational Risk Assessments should be enforced for all staff.
  • More support is required for self-isolation outside of overcrowded homes for those testing positive (e.g. providing hotel rooms free of charge).
  • Rent arrears should be cancelled or long-term no-interest loans provided to cover rent arrears. ‘No-fault evictions’ should be abolished under section 21 of the Housing Act 1988 within the next 12 months. Finally, there should be a duty to provide immediate emergency accommodation to all those with nowhere safe to stay.
  • Free school meals should be expanded for all school-age children
  • Pupil Premium rates should be doubled for schools in deprived areas to reduce the educational attainment gap.
  • There should be an increase of at least £20 per week to the child element of Universal Credit. The benefits cap should be abolished and sanctions removed from the Universal Credit system.

“The emerging economic crisis is likely to further increase health inequalities unless there is re-investment in public services and the social safety net is improved,” concluded Professor Bambra.

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