Doncaster health chief calls for poverty action as NHS faces fresh Covid challenges

Doncaster’s leading health chief has called for action to tackle poverty as the NHS faces fresh challenges in the town in 2022 as the Covid pandemic subsides.

By Darren Burke
Thursday, 10th February 2022, 12:04 pm

Dr Rupert Suckling, director of Public Health at Doncaster Council, has said Covid will continue to impact on health services in the town during 2022 – and says the pandemic has ‘unearthed inequalities’ which he says urgently need addressing.

Discussing the challenges facing the NHS as the Covid pandemic subsisdes, he said: “We are starting 2022 with the highest rates of Covid-19 we’ve ever seen in the borough and as Omicron cases continue to rise, we are seeing the impact that this is having on our services.

“The disruption to people’s lives, livelihoods, the services and institutions we rely on has been profound.

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Dr Rupert Suckling says the NHS in Doncaster faces new challenges in 2022.

“Across Doncaster businesses are struggling with staff shortages due to the virus and schools are not only challenged with pupils missing out on face-to-face teaching but have the added pressure of teachers isolating and daily jugging to keep classes running.

“However, thanks to the vaccine programme we are seeing fewer people getting seriously ill because of the virus and the numbers in ITU remain low.

“The vaccination and booster programme should be a cause for hope especially if it can be rolled out globally.

"There is still much to be to be done, to prevent as many new cases of Covid-19 as possible, to identify new cases of Covid-19, respond promptly to those cases and reduce the impact of any new cases on individuals and the wider population. 2022 will be another year where we continue to learn to live with Covid-19.

“We are continuing to learn about the virus but what the last two years have taught us is that by working together we can achieve a lot. Services and organisations across Doncaster have worked closely to deliver the vaccine programme, set up testing centres, work with different sectors of the community to ensure that the relevant facts and information about the virus and the vaccines has reached them and together we’ll continue to work to protect our community.

“Doncaster residents have continued to follow the guidance set out by the government and have stayed at home when asked to, socially distanced when meeting outside and have followed guidance around mask wearing indoors and testing.

“Sadly, the pandemic has unearthed and exacerbated long standing inequalities experienced by older residents, those in key worker roles, those in poverty and those from ethnic minorities.

"Women have borne the brunt of the pandemic as formal caring, informal caring, childcare and home-schooling roles all needed to be fulfilled, at the same time as working shifts or working remotely.

“Many people will show signs of trauma or have other emotional or mental health needs. These health impacts will also be clustered in some groups more than other and these inequalities need to be addressed and if possible, prevented.

“Community centred approaches are becoming even more important, and they should be secured for the long term and not just for the pandemic. Poverty, long term inequalities and a lack of resilience not just in Doncaster but in the UK more generally must be addressed.

“2022 will need a recovery that doesn’t only renew but regenerates Doncaster with investment in social as well as economic infrastructure, a productive, low carbon economy at its heart, with a job’s led recovery leading to low unemployment, wages that keep pace with the cost of living and a reduction in child poverty.

“We need to see a recovery that not only addresses the Covid-19 pandemic but also tackles the long standing challenges we had before the pandemic including homelessness, poverty, climate change, racism or inequality, now that’s a recovery worth being part of.

“By addressing poverty, inequality and lack of opportunity in these places we understand that real community action needs to take place and the key to this will be in the empowerment, enabling of the people and the communities in which they live. This will drive positive lives and indeed provide the impetus for hope, happiness, and ownership and in turn improve health inequalities.

“To that extent recovery and renewal needs to be thought of community by community, linking into the density of social networks and social capital with a focus on health in all policies.

“The next decade presents massive opportunities and challenges not only for Doncaster, its people, places and businesses but for the whole planet. Team Doncaster’s ability to respond to challenges such as how we build back fairer and better from Covid-19 and how we tackle climate change will be key for the 2020s. Doncaster Delivering Together is that plan and sets out what the partnership wants to achieve in the longer term up to 2030.

“Team Doncaster has set out a central mission of ‘Thriving People, Places and Planet’ with six well-being goals setting out a future vision and the key indicators for the Borough to be achieved by 2030. The ‘Fair and Inclusive’ and ‘Greener Cleaner’ goals are cross cutting and impact everything.

“One of the key priorities for Doncaster Delivering together is - Building opportunities for healthier, happier and longer lives for all. There are a number of actions outlined for this priority but in particular is worthy of note and that is the development of a ‘Wellbeing and Fairness Commission’.

“The proposed commission would be an independent body tasked by the Doncaster Health and Wellbeing Board. It will work to produce a report with some clear areas of focus that will help to improve wellbeing for residents and ensure no one is left behind.

“We’ve experienced a global pandemic, none of us have seen anything like this in our lifetime before, and while we continue to navigate this and the challenges it brings we need to continue to recognise, celebrate and support the roles of ‘Key workers’, local people, groups, institutions, businesses and communities in the way Doncaster works.

“It is important that we maintain sufficient local capacity and capability to respond to and learn from the continued COVID-19 pandemic and implement Doncaster Delivering Together, including updating and publishing a set of Impact Assessments to continue to guide and shape local recovery and renewal.

“I want to say thank you to each and every Doncaster resident who has done their bit to help, by getting vaccinated, continued testing, wearing masks and making sensible choices about meeting up. We are in this together and together we’ll Do it for Doncaster.”