SOCIAL BACKLOG: Health Secretary warns of long-term challenges of the pandemic
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The UK faces a social backlog and a health backlog after the coronavirus pandemic, the Health Secretary has said.
Sajid Javid told a think tank event in Blackpool on Thursday that the country would have to deal with a “social backlog in mental health and public health” as well as ballooning NHS waiting lists following the pandemic.
He said: “Passing the peak of the pandemic has been a bit like a receding tide, revealing the underlying health of our nation. It’s revealed some fractures within and in many cases the pandemic has deepened those fractures.”
Mr Javid pointed to disparities in Covid admissions between the most and least deprived parts of the country, and the difference in mortality rates between white people and people from black, Asian and ethnic minority groups.
He added: “These are symptoms of a different disease, the disease of disparity.”
Speaking at an event organised by the Centre for Social Justice at The Grange community centre in Blackpool, Mr Javid said the new Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) would have a “relentless focus” on health inequalities as part of the Government’s “levelling up” agenda.
OHID will take over public health work from Public Health England, and Mr Javid said it would have “a driving mission to level up health and ensure everyone has a chance to live happy and healthy lives”.
As well as focusing on work to tackle preventable health conditions such as obesity, OHID will work across Government to address “wider factors that contribute to people’s health outcomes” such as housing, jobs and the environment.
Mr Javid said: “While I said we can’t level up economically without levelling up in health, it’s equally true that we can’t tackle health disparities without tackling wider disparities too.”
He also addressed mental health, saying “too many people” had experienced loneliness and isolation over the pandemic, while numbers waiting for routine mental health treatment have soared.
He said 3.7 million adults “reported feeling either often or always lonely – that’s up by more than a million since the start of the pandemic”.
Mr Javid said the Government had promised an extra £2.3 billion per year to transform mental health services by 2023.
He added: “I value mental health as much as physical health. I believe in the parity of esteem, because when you’re healthier you’re happier, and when you’re happier you’re healthier.
“It’s my job to ensure that virtuous circle is right at the heart of health policy.”
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