Health funding for north can change productivity

A new report from the Northern Health Science Alliance argues that the north of England deserves a greater portion of NHS funding to help it close the health gap between the region and the south.

Made up of universities, NHS trusts and local councils in the area, the alliance argues that the region which makes up the northern powerhouse, covering 16 million people, is likely to receive a disproportionate share of the £20.5 billion extra a year the NHS has been promised by 2023.

The NHS spends £2,892 per head of population on healthcare across the UK as a whole, with the north already favoured by the existing way the NHS in England distributes cash. It receives £1,553.73 per person a year on average, compared with £1,401.81 per person in the rest of the country.

However, providing more NHS resources into health in northern England would inject as much as £13.2 billion into the economy, as well as reduce the high rates of illness and early death seen in many parts of the north of England. Increasing the NHS budget by 10 per cent in the Northern Powerhouse will decrease economic inactivity rates by three percentage points.

Health for Wealth: Building a Healthier Northern Powerhouse for UK Productivity also connects the north’s poor productivity to health for first time, suggesting that improving health in the north could reduce the £4 gap in productivity per-person per-hour between the Northern Powerhouse and the rest of England by 30 per cent or £1.20 per-person per-hour.

Clare Bambra, lead author from Newcastle University, said: “This report demonstrates the connection between poor productivity and higher rates of ill health in the North. If you improve health in the North you will improve its productivity – potentially benefiting the whole of the UK’s economy. For the Northern Powerhouse to reach its full potential there needs to be increased investment in place-based public health in local authorities. There needs to be increased NHS funding in the North, spent on prevention services and health science research.

“Work needs to be done to improve labour market participation and job retention among people with a health condition in the region. Poorer health in the North affects the entire country’s economy, a healthier Northern Powerhouse will mean a healthier UK economy.”

Jackie Daniel, chief executive of the Newcastle upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We have a once in a generation opportunity to improve health in the north, and we cannot ignore the profound links between health, the economy and productivity. This report makes a strong economic argument for investing more money into the NHS in the north of England, where it can be more effectively used to improve the life chances and the life expectancy of our population.”

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