A recent report by the Chief Medical Officer for England concluded that life expectancy in coastal communities is suffering, and in dire need of further investigation and remedy. The details of this report with particular context of the Scarborough borough was discussed in Sept 2022 at a committee of NYCC. The figures shown below, male on the left, and female on the right, show the Whitby areas in the lower reaches of life expectancy.
The cause of the deprivation and resultant lower life expectancies remain to be resolved. Worse health outcomes occur when people have limited access to health care, experience poorer-quality care, and practise more risky health-related behaviours (for example, smoking). These factors are often influenced by wider determinants such as income, housing, environment and green spaces, transport, education and work. Scientific evidence shows that access to green space as well as active travel are significant contributory factors to health so, in the case of Whitby, not having the local standard of green space, coupled with having virtually non-existent cycle infrastructure and inadequate walking infrastructure are not going to help.
In the 2022 report by the Director of Public Health for NYCC which particularly looked at the effects of COVID and how it changed people’s habits, we see statements such as “There have been positive impacts from having accessible, local green spaces, which have supported both physical and mental health and wellbeing“, “Support equitable access to green space” and “However, access to gardens and good quality green spaces are not equitable across all parts of society“. With reference to the UK government statement “Building back ‘greener’ is a key ambition nationally and for local partners, … such as improving green spaces and active travel options we can help limit the harmful impacts into the future“. It is all well and good the aspirational statements, but where is the action to back it up and provide good quality green space (and active travel infra) and reduce this inequality?
In June 2023, we took part in a campaign cycle ride down the length of the Esk Valley, calling in at all GP surgeries and schools, asking whether they would sign a petition for more active travel support and for default 20mph where people are, recognising the health benefits of both of these measures. All GP surgeries (Danby, Egton, Sleights and Whitby) signed their support, as did the majority of the schools particularly all secondary schools.
Access to Health Services
Provision of GP services is generally better than for other areas, however recruitment and retention of GP’s is an issue. Two key issues appear to be wait times for appointments (typically 3 weeks for Whitby (July 2023) and continuity of service, particularly with patients with complex health care needs.
Being able to attend hospitals for treatment is also a significant problem, with Whitby Hospital, whilst have a major facelift recently, only providing a very limited range of services. Consequently there is a need to travel further afield to other health providers. To give some context
- Whitby Hospital : no bus service at all, walk up a steep hill.
- Bridlington Hospital : often used for eye treatment and hip/knee replacements. To get there a resident would have to get X93/94 to Scarborough Railway Station, then either East Yorks bus 12/13 or train to Bridlington, followed by East Yorks bus 3 to Bridlington Hospital. Allowing for getting to Whitby bus station this could mean up to 4h 45min on public transport to arrive when allowing for getting a bus to Whitby bus station first. This is simply not feasible for many people.
- Scarborough Hospital : for A&E and some treatments. To get there a resident would either have to get X93/94 and get off on Scalby Rd, or if not able to walk far go to Scarborough Railway Station, followed by an East Yorks bus to Scarborough Hospital (bus 10). The order of 2 hours travelling when allowing for getting a bus to Whitby bus station first!
- James Cook Hospital : consultations, treatment. The Northern Rail Esk Valley train calls at James Cook except it is a long walk from the railway station (600m, whilst the route is wheelchair accessible, it is not for those who struggle with walking distances). Two buses needed (Whitby – Middlesbrough, Middlesbrough – Hospital).
- Northallerton Hospital: hip/knee replacements. bus?
- York Hospital: major health issues, not dealt with by Scarborough. This would involve 2 buses (infrequent Whitby-York Coastliner, followed by York – Hospital).
- Hull Hospital: major health issues not dealt with by Scarborough. Bus/train/bus?