Chris Whitty sent in to save Britain’s sick seaside towns

We have been here before, for example the deprivation of Seaside Towns was examined by Clive Betts MP’s committee in a benchmarking study 2006/7:

On Deprivation

  •  26 of the 37 principal seaside towns in England have an overall level of deprivation greater than the English average. 
  • On most individual domains within the Indices of Deprivation, with the notable exception of crime, a majority of seaside towns have above-average deprivation. 

The report concludes that, taking account of a range of evidence, on average England’s principal seaside towns are rather more disadvantaged than the rest of the country, but not markedly so. 

However, there is considerable variation between seaside towns, with some towns faring markedly better than others and in quite a number of cases better than England as a whole.

The ‘economic’ data suggests that Bognor Regis, Exmouth, Greater Bournemouth, Greater Brighton, Greater Worthing, Sidmouth, Southport, Swanage, Whitley Bay and Whitstable/Herne Bay have the stronger local economies among seaside towns.

The same data suggests that Bridlington, Clacton, Great Yarmouth, Ilfracombe, Lowestoft, Morecambe/Heysham, Penzance, Skegness, Thanet, Torbay and Whitby have the weaker local economies among seaside towns. 

Among the larger seaside towns/areas, with more than 100,000 people, the economic data also points to a ranking of disadvantage from Thanet (the most disadvantaged) through Torbay, Hastings, Greater Blackpool, Isle of Wight, Southend, Greater Brighton and Greater Bournemouth to Greater Worthing (the least disadvantaged).

Chris Whitty sent in to save Britain’s sick seaside towns

Ben Spencer, Science Editor

Professor Chris Whitty has turned his attention from the coronavirus to deprived coastal towns.

The chief medical officer is compiling a report, due later this summer, to highlight the “unique health challenges” faced by those living on the coast. It keeps a promise he made just before the pandemic.

Experts have long warned that seaside communities around Britain have been left behind. Employment levels, academic achievement, economic growth and health are all worse in coastal areas.

According to a Social Market Foundation report published in 2019, life expectancy is six months shorter for men and five months shorter for women living on the coast.

Employees in seaside communities earned about £5,000 less than those further inland.

That picture has been only made worse by the pandemic as the tourism industry was shut down for long periods.

Whitty is to oversee the new Office for Health Promotion, which will take over much of the work of the disbanded Public Health England. He has developed a special interest in the plight of people in rural and coastal areas, which has been long neglected in public health.

When Whitty was appointed chief medical officer in October 2019, he set out tackling health inequalities as a priority for his tenure. Last autumn he started a programme of visits to coastal towns and ports, such as Hull and Morecambe, to gather information for his report.

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference in December, Whitty said more and more older people were living in rural and coastal areas with poor healthcare provision, but the problem could be solved.

“It is possible to raise the health outcomes of the least healthy closer to the outcomes of the healthiest — we should be aiming for that,” he added.

The Department of Health said: “Addressing health inequalities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic and levelling up the health of communities across the UK is a priority for this government.

“The chief medical officer’s report will consider the inequalities experienced in coastal towns and recommend actions to improve outcomes for people in these areas.”