The Board received a presentation from the Director of Public Health entitled ‘Behind the Masks, Gateshead’s Covid Stores’.
The Annual Report set out the background to the key themes of report and highlighted the direct impact of Covid-19 on Gateshead people and how organisations, individuals and communities have gone above and beyond to respond to the challenges they have faced.
The report then focused on the impact of the pandemic on the six policy objectives set out in the ‘Marmot Review, Fair Society, Healthy Lives (2010) and adopted by the ‘Gateshead Health and Wellbeing Strategy: Good jobs, homes, health and friends’.
Rather than setting out traditional recommendations, the report concludes with a number of lessons from our Gateshead Covid stories:
Lesson 1 – we must continue to prioritise the policy objectives set out in our Health and Wellbeing Strategy (published February 2020). Our Covid stories have shown us that, while they may be more challenging than ever, they remain the key areas to tackle so we can reduce levels of inequality and alter the circumstances that lead to inequality.
Lesson 2 – we must continue to take action on poverty at every opportunity. We must make sure that the services that provide advice and support to those in the communities of place and interest, who have been most affected by the pandemic, receive the resources that they need to mitigate the damage that poverty brings. This means we will have to do different things in different places striving for equity and not equality.
Lesson 3 – children and young people have experienced significant disruption to their lives at key stages in their development. Supporting children, young people and families to make up ground lost in the pandemic as soon as possible, is critical to preventing problems being stored up for generations to come. We need a focus on how we support our children and young people to recover. Our response will need to be differentiated by the stage of life.
Lesson 4 – there must be an increased focus on preventable action across all our services. In particular, we need to consider how we support mental health and well-being in all our services and at all levels. The long term consequences of the pandemic for the health of the local population will take time to be fully understood but it is already evident that there has been a negative impact on many people’s mental health. Health behaviours including physical activity, alcohol consumption and smoking are also early areas to address.
Lesson 5 – we must engage communities in developing the solutions – enabling people to maximise their capabilities and have control of their lives is, as we know, part of the solution. We must work with communities to hear and understand the things that matter to them and what works for them. During Covid-19, we’ve seen how successful this approach has been in making information and support accessible and relevant to different communities.
Lesson 6 – we need to continue to harness the power of social action in communities. During the pandemic, local community groups stepped up to support their vulnerable neighbours. We saw how powerful this could be when there is a collective goal everyone can get behind. We need to find a way to support this type of community action.
Lesson 7 – we need to ensure that those innovators and service developments that have improved access to services are identified and mainstreamed whilst recognising that they may not be appropriate for everyone and all circumstances. There needs to be a range of options, particularly for those who are digitally excluded whilst recognising that others have benefitted from being able to access services remotely.
Lesson 8 – the initial waves of the pandemic have demonstrated how much successful partnerships can achieve when local government, health and public sector partners, charities, the voluntary sector and community groups come together behind a shared goal. We need to continue to build on this renewed focus and purpose as we look to the future.
i) The Board noted the contents of the presentation and agreed with the action to tackle the lessons from our Covid experience in Gateshead.