Vicky Angear Weston Mercury Published: July 28, 2021   

England’s chief medical officer has called for a national strategy to tackle poor health and lower life expectancy in seaside towns such as Weston. 

Heart disease, strokes, mental health problems and diabetes are all more prevalent in seaside populations, along with higher rates of smoking. 

Seaside towns often have older populations with more complex needs, while local NHS services can suffer from recruitment problems leaving gaps in health services. 

Professor Chris Whitty’s report says coastal towns have been ‘overlooked by governments’, and calls for cross-government action to address overlapping issues such as bad housing and poor health.   

Council leaders in North Somerset have welcomed the report. The authority’s deputy leader Cllr Mike Bell said: “Many of our coastal communities have pockets of deprivation and poor health due to a number of factors, including traditionally lower-paid jobs, poor accommodation and a lack of investment. 

“Whilst, overall, most health and wellbeing measures for North Somerset are better than average, there are substantial health inequalities with differences in life expectancy at birth of some 10 years between those people living in the most affluent and the most deprived areas, which are predominantly in and around Weston.  

“North Somerset is also home to a higher proportion of people aged over 65 years than nationally. Together this presents significant public health challenges to manage including both health inequalities and the increasing prevalence of long-term conditions.” 

Cllr Bell said ‘significant improvement’ was needed in primary and community care services to enable people to access good healthcare and live healthier lives. 

North Somerset Council is just finalising its health and wellbeing strategy and action plan which will set out a range of interventions the council and health partners can take to improve health and wellbeing over the next decade.

Cllr Bell added: “Improving health and wellbeing is a complex and long-term task. It requires action in areas like education, housing and economic development, plus the strengthening of services targeted at different levels of identified need, for example, voluntary and community delivered advocacy and support, GP and community services and more specialist care for physical and mental health and wellbeing needs.  

“As Chris Whitty says, we need a national programme that is targeted at coastal communities and funded by the government to act as the catalyst for improvement.

“There is a huge amount of investment coming into Weston already in terms of the council’s placemaking approach and the potential of a successful Levelling Up Fund bid, but we do need to see investment in some of the basics too, including good homes, good healthcare and community services that can support people to get the most they can from their lives.”