Newcastle GP Guy Pilkington highlighted how nine of the 13 local authority areas in the North East and North Cumbria region have a healthy life expectancy of under 60 years. In the entire south of England, including London, the figure is just four out of 67 such authorities.
Dr Pilkington has just been appointed Chair of Ways to Wellness, a charity working with the NHS that uses specialist link workers to engage with patients to tackle the non-medical issues that might be affecting their health and wellbeing.
Speaking at an event discussing the future of healthcare in the region, Dr Pilkington said: “Let’s be ambitious, let’s eradicate the difference in health inequality.”
After notable success in the West End of Newcastle, Ways to Wellness is merging with Blue Stone Collaborative to create an innovation hub that will trial new methods to improve healthcare for patients and their families before, during and after treatment.
It is also expanding its reach to cover the same area as the newly created North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System (ICS) which has responsibility for the area’s £6bn healthcare budget.
Sam Allen, Chief Executive of the Board that oversees the ICS, spoke of the: “sad evidence of growing health inequality in the region.”
Highlighting that the region tops the league of child poverty, which severely impedes a person’s life chances, she said there needs to be a shift of funding into prevention and early intervention.
Prof. Chris Drinkwater, the retiring Chair of Ways to Wellness will remain a patron of the charity. He said charities have a better opportunity to pioneer innovation in tackling health inequalities than the NHS and that using the arts and activities can help engage communities that feel left behind.
He added: “It’s a fact that healthy, happy communities use the NHS less, so we need to create happy communities.”
The health leaders were speaking at an event held at The Common Room, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne on Friday July 15 to mark the forthcoming merger of Ways to Wellness and Blue Stone Collaborative.
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