Health inequalities in the north east of England and the COVID-19 pandemic: a student's reflection
My experience as a nursing student undertaking a nursing degree during the COVID-19 pandemic cannot be explored without considering the health inequity prevalent within the UK and my particular interest in health and social care within the north east of England.
Working class and northern born, with strong familial links to our region's great mining history, I have long been acutely aware of the long-debated inequalities known as the north-south divide within the UK, and within England in particular.
The north-south divide has developed for many complex and historical reasons and has long been recognised. As many businesses have chosen to set up in the south of England, this has created a wealth divide. Those living in the north of the country experience lower incomes, higher unemployment, and a lower standard of living than those in the south.
Although always lingering in the background of day-to-day life, the economy, and politics, it is possible that regional health inequity within the country has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the pandemic, the health of the population in the north east of England was already poorer when compared to that of the rest of the country (Corris et al, 2020). Between 2017 and 2019 the region had the lowest life expectancy for both men and women, with London having the highest (Office for National Statistics (ONS), 2020). These conditions have long been attributed to unemployment levels in the region, alongside poverty and inferior social welfare and educational opportunities (The Lancet, 2017).
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