Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department of Health and Social Care and National Institute for Health Research lead, visited the borough as part of a countrywide tour of local authorities to hear how residents’ health and wellbeing could benefit from research opportunities.
The visit was organised by Public Health at East Sussex County Council in partnership with Hastings Borough Council, Hastings and Rother CCG and Hastings Voluntary Action, and comes before Professor Whitty takes on a new role as Chief Medical Officer for England and the UK government’s Chief Medical Adviser in October.
Welcoming the visit, Darrell Gale, director of public health at East Sussex County Council, said: “Health outcomes for the people of Hastings and Saint Leonard’s are often poorer than in the rest of Sussex and the south east, yet there are great examples of community action and agencies working together in the town.
“This visit helped to shine a light on the many positive achievements over the years, whilst clearly focussing on the need to develop sustainable approaches to improving health for all in the town.”
The visit concentrated on the work being done by partners to improve the health and wellbeing of residents by focusing on personal and community resilience and reducing health inequalities, including;
• The chances 4 Change programme which supports charities, community groups and individuals to make the most of their community assets
• An integrated healthy lifestyle service which offers tailored, evidence based support to enable individuals to make changes to the lifestyle health behaviours
• The Healthy Hastings and Rother programme which uses insight of individuals and communities to better understand how access to health and other services can be improved for those with the poorest health
Dr David Warden, chair of NHS Hastings and Rother CCG and Richard Watson, health inequalities manager for the CCG, added: “We are proud to have had the opportunity to contribute to Professor Whitty’s visit and share the impact and learning from Healthy Hastings and Rother with him and his team. The NHS, along with many partner organisations, is working to improve local services for those with the poorest health in our most disadvantaged communities and together we have made some real progress to address health inequality in Hastings.
“The NHS Long Term Plan commits the NHS to a greater focus on prevention and reducing health inequalities and we will continue to work tirelessly with local people, communities and partners to support people to live healthier and happier lives.”
With almost one three Hastings residents living in an area among the most deprived in England and with male life expectancy among the lowest in the country, it is hoped that further research could result in greater opportunities to address health inequalities in the area.
Cllr Kim Forward, Hastings Borough Council’s lead councillor for regeneration, said: “The needs of seaside communities is well known; we are very pleased Prof Whitty visited Hastings with his team to learn first-hand the challenges faced by residents of Hastings to improve their lives and wellbeing.
“We also appreciate the areas he chose to visit and the time he spent talking directly to many of the local organisations supporting our residents to lift themselves out of poverty and poor health. We believe this is achievable and sustainable through longer strategic programmes.”
Speaking after his visit Professor Whitty said: Professor Whitty said: “As many health issues are linked to lifestyle, it has been very interesting to hear about the really impressive work in Hastings to change behaviours through evidence-based personalised approaches. Like many parts of the country, health inequalities are an issue for the people of Hastings and research will help overcome the challenges they pose.”
Following Professor Whitty’s visit, a meeting will be held between Public Health, partner organisations and elected members for the wards visited during the day. The aim of the meeting will be to agree the next steps and to ensure that partners gain from working ever closer together.
Dr Kate Jones, Chief Operating Officer for NIHR Clinical Research Network Kent, Surrey and Sussex said: “We are excited about working with East Sussex County Council and the opportunities to deliver public health research which will benefit our patients and members of the public in East Sussex and across the region.”