Innovation Agency
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Why we need to ‘level up the North’

The ten-year-on update of the Marmot Review, Health Equity in England, has presented us with some shocking statistics.

The report highlights that:

  • there has been no national health inequalities strategy since 2010
  • large funding cuts have affected the social determinants of health mainly in areas outside of London and the South East
  • improvements to life expectancy have stalled and declined for the poorest of 10 per cent of women
  • the health gap has grown between wealthy and deprived areas
  • the more deprived the area, the shorter the life expectancy

In the North we already knew that poor health accounts for one third of the productivity gap between the North and the rest of the UK, at a cost of £13.2bn a year. Analysis by the Northern Health Science Alliance shows that this situation is getting worse and the gap is widening year-on-year as investment is increasingly centralised in the South East.

If we think about investment in institutions that could support a reversal in these worrying trends, again we see inequality:

£21 is spent per person on health innovation and research in the North compared to a £62 average in London, Oxford and Cambridge.

This lack of investment helps drive health inequalities and is difficult to understand given that the North of England has proven strengths in health innovation; more world top-250 universities than Italy, Spain and France combined; and exceptional hospitals.

There is huge potential for the Government to support improved health and level up the health of Northern people to those living in affluent areas in London and the South. This in turn will improve economic growth, as shown in the NHSA report, Health is Wealth:

“Importantly, improving health in the North could reduce the existing gap in GVA of £4 per-person-per-hour between the Northern Powerhouse and the rest of England by up to £1.20. Improving health in the North increases the whole country’s productivity.”

The work of the Innovation Agency and fellow Academic Health Science Networks is all about working with innovators to address the needs of patients, support the creation of jobs and drive inward investment.  We work alongside bodies such as Well North and Active Lancashire who support residents to improve their health and begin/sustain employment. 

Our NHS and university partners are the anchor institutions in our cities and regional economies and, by everyone investing in local businesses and innovations, we can together help to level up the North.


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