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Health inequalities: Age webinar

A summary of what was discussed at our third health inequalities webinar series focussed on how COVID-19 has impacted different generations.

On 18 January we held the third webinar in our series on focussed on health inequalities and the impact of COVID-19. This session looked at how different age groups have been, and continue to be, impacted by the virus.

The event was chaired by Cllr David Fothergill, Chairman of the Community Wellbeing Board. The first half of the webinar focussed on the impact on the younger generation. 

Rachael McKeown, Policy Fellow for the Association for Young People’s Health Alliance (AYPH) opened the session highlighting the findings from AYPH's reports on young people and the impact of COVID-19. Findings included:

  • 18.9 per cent of secondary school pupils were eligible for free school meals in 2021, an increase from 15.9 per cent in 2020 
  • 750 youth services closed
  • 64 per cent young adult carers spent more hours per week caring.

Rachael emphasised the need to consider young people as an important age group, the need for more youth groups, better data and for young people to be at the heart of policy and practice. 

We need to think about this age group for the foundation of the future, including prevention and early intervention.

Rachael McKeown

We then heard from Cristiana Orlando, Research Fellow for the Health Foundation who provided an overview of how job opportunities for younger people have been impacted by COVID-19. She presented findings from the Health Foundation’s 'Young people future health inquiry' which focused on understanding young people’s perspectives on ‘good quality work’.

The pandemic impacted people’s learning and access to jobs, there was a lack of work experience due to lockdowns.

Cristiana Orlando

The webinar then turned it's focus to the older generation and how they've been impacted by the pandemic. We heard from Sarah Mistry, Chief Executive of the British Geriatrics Society who emphasised that the pandemic had exposed underlying inequalities experienced by older people but was clear that ‘older people’ should not be considered as a one homogenous group. Sarah highlighted that by June 2021 90 per cent of COVID deaths had been from people aged over 65.

Resourcing decisions were made based on age rather than clinical judgement.

Sarah Mistry

Sir Muir Gray, Executive Director, Oxford Centre for Triple Value Healthcare and Director,

Optimal Ageing Programme, outlined the aims of the Living Longer Better programme. They included; increasing wellbeing and health span, reducing the need for health and social care and improving ones cognitive and emotional wellbeing. 

Finally, we heard from Dr Adrian Hayter, GP and National Clinical Director for NHS England. He spoke about working on the frontline during COVID-19 and lessons learned. 

The inequality of people in care homes is something I have noticed. Access to care, good access to community services and GP services is so important.

Dr Adrian Hayter

Adrian gave the example of someone who needed their care package increased from twice a day to four times a day as they were reaching the end of their life. Typically that would have been a priority, however they weren’t able to get them that care due to capacity issues.

The webinar concluded with a Q & A which focussed on the future and what the speakers would like to see looking ahead: 

  • Sarah highlighted the importance of hospitals having natural light and greener spaces around hospital wards. She also called for an older people’s commissioner - a strong and visible champion.
  • Rachael noted that when making decisions they needed to be done with young people and not for them.
  • Dr Adrian emphasised the importance of collaborative working, "when we go into crisis we go into silo working, if we can collaborate to support vulnerable people we need to do that to protect people."