New report shows almost £30bn health cost of England’s most deprived communities

New research reveals that 'left behind' neighbourhoods have among the worst health outcomes in England.

13th January 2022

Read the report here 

People in England’s most deprived neighbourhoods work longer hours than those in the rest of the country but live shorter lives with more years in ill health costing an estimated £29.8bn a year to the economy in lost productivity.

People living in these communities were also 46% more likely to die from COVID-19 than those in the rest of England.

The findings, revealed in a joint report released today by the All-Parliamentary Party Group for ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods and Northern Health Science Alliance, shows the devastating impact of poor health for those living in deprived areas and left behind neighbourhoods (LBNs) and makes a number of recommendations to overcome the health inequalities faced by people living in these places.

Those living in local authorities that contain ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods have a further £2bn gap in lost productivity compared to those areas with a similar rate of deprivation but with more civic assets, connectedness and an active and engaged community.

Across most measures people in these areas fair even worse than those in deprived neighbourhoods.

The report discovered:

  • people living in ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods were 46% more likely to die from COVID-19 than those in the rest of England and 7% more likely to have died of the virus than those living in deprived non-LBN areas.
  • in ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods men live 3.7 years fewer than average and women 3 years fewer. People in these neighbourhoods can both expect to live 7.5 fewer years in good health than their counterparts in the rest of England.
  • people living in local authorities that contain ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods work more hours on average than those elsewhere in the country, at 36.9 hours a week, compared to 36.8 hours a week for those living in local authorities that contain deprived non-left-behind neighbourhoods.
  • tackling the health inequalities facing local authorities with ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods and bringing them up to England’s average could add an extra £29.8bn to the country’s economy each year.

Typically located in post-industrial areas in the midlands and north of England, as well as coastal areas in the south east, the 225 neighbourhoods identified as ‘left behind’ rank within the top 10 per cent most deprived of the Index of Multiple Deprivation and the top 10 per cent of areas most in need as measured by the Community Needs Index, meaning they lack places and spaces to meet, digital connectivity and transport and an active and engaged community.

While outcomes between the England average and both deprived areas and ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods was by far the widest, outcomes were frequently worse in areas that contain ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods than those in areas which were deprived but not ‘left behind’. This shows the importance of taking an ultra-local approach to solving health issues, to engaging the local community in its efforts and making sure there are adequate resources available to do this.

Co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods Paul Howell MP said: “Health is at the forefront of all our minds right now. The findings from this report are clear, people living in ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods are overall worse off when it comes to health and something needs to change.

“It is essential we take the action needed to make sure people living in these neighbourhoods do not continue to suffer from poor health so that they can reach their full potential and have the same opportunities as those living elsewhere, now and in the future.”

Co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods the Rt Hon Dame Diana Johnson DBE MP said: “Every single person in the country deserves to live a long life in good health, but this new research demonstrates this isn’t currently a reality.

“Whilst sustained investment in our health system is needed to make this possible, support and funding at a local level is also needed to ensure people and the communities in which they live in are happy, healthy and thriving, rather than continuing to be left behind.”

Report lead author Dr Luke Munford, Lecturer in Health Economics, at the University of Manchester said: “We have long known that the health of people living in these ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods is worse than the national average. We have shown here that if we can improve their health, there is considerable economic and social gains to be made, which will not only improve the quality of life of these people but also considerably boost the national economy.”

Professor Clare Bambra, Professor of Public Health at the University of Newcastle and report co-author, said: “Levelling up needs to urgently focus on health inequalities by addressing the unequal conditions in which we live, work and age. For too long, a lack of investment in key services has meant that more deprived, ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods – particularly in the north – have suffered disproportionately. The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened these inequalities and it will cast a long shadow across our future health and economic prosperity as a country unless we act now. That’s why levelling up health needs to be central to the government’s overall approach to levelling up the country.”

Northern Health Science Alliance Health Inequalities Lead and report co-author Hannah Davies said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed how important it is to tackle health inequalities in the most deprived parts of the country. The 46% increased COVID-19 mortality rate for people in these areas is unacceptable.

“This report demonstrates how essential it is that tackling health inequalities is placed at the heart of the country’s levelling up strategy.”

The report authors have made a series of recommendations to level up the health inequality between LBNs and deprived neighbourhoods including to develop a national ‘levelling up’ strategy to reduce health inequalities through targeting multiple neighbourhood, community and healthcare factors and an increase in NHS funding in more deprived local areas (including ’left behind’ neighbourhoods) to reduce health care inequalities.

It also makes specific recommendations to tackle the unique problems of ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods including funding health initiatives which increase the level of control local people have over their life circumstances, such as the community piggy bank and putting community engagement which builds social cohesion, networks and infrastructure at the heart of health delivery and introducing a Community Wealth Fund to support this.

The full report is available here:

The list of LBNs is available here:

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