At least 20 local authorities are expected to receive extra financial support and resources from the government to ease the pressure during the winter period, Sky News can reveal.
This winter is expected to have an increased impact on the services thanks to COVID-19 and measures are being taken to try to help local authorities get through the coming months.
Sky News can reveal that from October 22, four local authorities, including Bolton, Luton, Blackburn with Darwen and Leicester, will be categorized as areas of “permanent transmission” for coronavirus and will therefore receive a tailor-made package to support them until potentially March 2022.
The package contains:
• Access to test capacity and communication support for targeted testing
• Support for planning and maintaining public health forces
• Ability to support workplaces and companies to be COVID-secure
• Support for vaccine program
• Supporting data and insights to help develop what works in the area
Another plan seen by Sky News from the UK Health Security Agency, the Department of Health and Social Care and the NHS will be in place for a further 16 local authorities from 5 November – although these measures will be evaluated after the first four authorities receive their package.
The 16 areas are: Bradford, Rochdale, Slough, Bristol, Peterborough, Oldham, Sandwell, Kirklees, Preston, Hartlepool, Tameside, Middlesbrough, Burnley, Ealing, Manchester and Hyndburn.
The government is eager to class package support as part of their plan for planning for the north
Analysis by Inzamam Rashid, correspondent north of England
The government will be keen to highlight this amount of funding as a step in their smoothing of the agenda, which was central to their manifesto and party conference earlier this month.
As 12 of the 20 areas in the north receive support, it will be seen as a step towards narrowing inequality in health, which was exacerbated by the pandemic.
But many local health leaders will still feel dissatisfied. It may also lead to a concern that these areas – classified as “renewable transmission zones” – may require local shutdowns in the future if cases arise, although this will be a last resort for the government and local leaders.
All of the areas highlighted for support have a high level of deprivation and some of the lowest levels of vaccine intake in the country. Twelve of the 20 areas are in the north of England, with eight in the north-west.
In the government’s COVID-19 framework, last updated on 7 October, ministers describe areas of “lasting transmission” as “associated with long-standing patterns of deprivation and inequalities in health”.
Historically, many of these areas have been some of the most severely affected by coronavirus in the country.
Bolton was negatively impacted by the Delta variant when it first began to spread in the country, making it one of the country’s virus hotspots earlier this year.
Blackburn with Darwen was also identified as an area with regarding case number in May.
It comes as new figures found that life expectancy in many communities, especially in the north, was falls even before the arrival of the pandemic.
People in some northern communities in England have a lower life expectancy of a full 27 years compared to those living in London and its surrounding counties, according to data from Imperial College London.
Despite the announcement, there are still concerns about how the services will perform in the coming months.
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A local health official told Sky News: “These measures are a drop in the ocean, they will not even touch the sides.
“We’ve experienced incredible hardship over the last 18 months, and winter is going to crush us even more.”
They added: “The pressure over the winter is going to be brutal, so we have to accept any help and support offered.”
Meanwhile, shadow health secretary and MP for Leicester South, Jonathan Ashworth, said: “Why wait until October 22? We need this extra help now, not in nine days?
“It’s half term next week in Leicester, we need help to get more young people vaccinated. For example, they should be allowed to go to centers through half term.”