The UK’s Northern Health and Science Alliance (NHSA) has written a letter to the country’s Prime Minister calling on him to urgently address the north-south economic divide when it comes to healthcare investment in one of the country’s poorest regions.

The letter to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak follows research from the NHSA which found that two research centres in London and Cambridge, the Francis Crick Institute and Sanger Institute respectively, received government investments of £71.2m ($88.6m) and £116.6m ($144.3m) in 2022. In the same year, the entirety of the UK’s northern healthcare system received only £48m in infrastructure funding, less than half of the amount provided for the two southern facilities.

The regional disparity has long been one of the primary economic factors impacting the quality of healthcare services across the UK, with research published by the University of Manchester and Health Equity North in 2022 finding that people born in the North can expect to live at least one year less than the English average.

The same study also found that the North has higher rates of economic inactivity due to ill health or disability. The study found that 5.7% of respondents in the Northeast and 5.3% in the North-West indicated that poor health and disability prevent them from working, compared with the national average of 4.1%.

Co-author of the report, Luke Munford, said: “The northern regions have faced worse health outcomes for many years and with the added challenges posed in the wake of the pandemic and the current cost of living crisis, things look set to continue on a downward spiral. However, a joined-up approach to tackle these inequalities at local and national level would help to rebalance regional health inequity.”

To this end, Hospital Management sat down with the executive lead for investment and international partnerships at the NHSA, Ben Martyn, to delve into why the group are calling for the Prime Minister to step in and what the disparity in funding means for the north.

Joshua Silverwood: Can you give me an idea as to the knock-on effect that an imbalance such as this has?

Ben Martyn: Health research spending is an important policy level for increasing economic benefits and for health benefits. We know that hospitals that do more research have better health outcomes because the clinicians are working with cutting-edge technologies, at the same time they are much more likely to be up to date on the latest medical literature. They are dynamic and there are direct, secondary, and tertiary benefits that come from that which have a direct impact on healthcare quality.

We also know that spending on research, not just in health but across all sorts of R&D, looking at bio-medical research approximately £1 of public research funding additionally brings with it approximately £1 of private investment. So, there is that knock-on effect in terms of improving outcomes for patients because you are working with cutting-edge technologies as well as all the expertise that brings in. You are also stimulating the local economy because you are attracting R&D investment. It attracts businesses because they are keen to work with a varied talent pool somewhere there is access to facilities and unique datasets that get built up when you invest in R&D.

We know from some of the research that the NHSA has done in the past that ill health accounts for approximately a third of all productivity loss across the North of England. We projected that if you raised the healthy life expectancy in the north to the same level it was in the south, it would produce $17.2bn for the UK economy. So, there is that next layer of benefit, that being the economic growth that we are losing out on by having poor health.

JS: Are you able to give me an example of a Northern success story where outside or public investment has made a difference?

How well do you really know your competitors?

Access the most comprehensive Company Profiles on the market, powered by GlobalData. Save hours of research. Gain competitive edge.

Company Profile – free sample

Thank you!

Your download email will arrive shortly

Not ready to buy yet? Download a free sample

We are confident about the unique quality of our Company Profiles. However, we want you to make the most beneficial decision for your business, so we offer a free sample that you can download by submitting the below form

By GlobalData
Visit our Privacy Policy for more information about our services, how we may use, process and share your personal data, including information of your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications. Our services are intended for corporate subscribers and you warrant that the email address submitted is your corporate email address.

BM: One good example is the Leeds Innovation District where they have been working alongside the University of Leeds and the Leeds Nexus investment fund following a model where cities found these business research parks or institutes that draw in the investment into the city. Following the same kind of model, Sheffield is also setting out on that pathway themselves with the Sheffield Innovation Spine project.

Up in Liverpool, there is the Centre of Excellence in Infectious Disease Research which previously received a double-digit public investment which they then were able to leverage into a triple-digit million-pound investment from private sources.

JS: Tell us about the increasing diversity of research in the North.

BM: Post-covid, the UK as a whole has been slipping when it comes to the global clinical trial delivery league table. We were once the best and now we are the fourth, however, one of the points of contention there, whilst the UK as a whole has been slipping the north has still been delivering. Manchester is one of the best places in the country for clinical trials. It used to be that Newcastle was the best spot for delivering clinical trials on time and target.

We are really, really good at it, if you think about it in terms of delivering the maximum value for patients you want to do your clinical trials in the areas of greatest need so that those people get access to the latest drugs and techniques as quickly as possible. If you wanted to run a drug trial with a rare disease, if you go somewhere that disease is prevalent you get the best results in terms of recruitment. It is also a very diverse population in the North, Manchester and Leeds both have populations that are roughly 1% of the UK with demographics roughly matching the overall demographics of the UK. So you can get a very representative clinical trial done in the north. It’s harder to do if you are running a trial in leafy Cambridge where you may be limited in terms of the diversity of patient population.

JS: What can be achieved with better outside funding?

BM: The north has some of the highest density of top universities than anywhere else in the world. We are quite small geographically, but we have such a high density of excellent research both in terms of universities but also the research we deliver through trusts. There isn’t any reason why the North, and the UK, can’t act as a global research and innovation hub for life sciences. We are already world-leading in it, but often it feels like in regions outside of the Southeast we don’t receive the investment that could take us to the next level. We published a report called The Northern Supercluster that detailed the number of high-skilled high-growth jobs that could be created through a number of investments, so I just think that is a huge untapped potential.