England's chief medical officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty visits Scarborough following report to tackle ill health in coastal areas

Professor Sir Chris Whitty, England's chief medical officer, visited Scarborough last week on a fact-finding trip following his report into poor health and deprivation on the coast.

By George Buksmann
Tuesday, 15th March 2022, 9:57 am
Updated Tuesday, 15th March 2022, 9:58 am
Professor Sir Chris Whitty with Louise Wallace, North Yorkshire’s Director of Public Health (right) and Dr Victoria Turner, a North Yorkshire public health consultant.
Professor Sir Chris Whitty with Louise Wallace, North Yorkshire’s Director of Public Health (right) and Dr Victoria Turner, a North Yorkshire public health consultant.

The chief medical officer was in Scarborough last Friday to see work on the ground in communities and in the hospital and how the area is tackling the rebuilding of its social, health and economic life following the height of the Covid pandemic.

The visit follows last year's annual report in which he focused on coastal communities which have higher rates of poor health and lower life expectancy, and how beautiful towns like Scarborough can mask significant deprivation.

"It's been a real privilege to come to talk to colleagues in Scarborough doing an amazing job to support the local communities on health and also social care," said Professor Whitty. "There are many difficulties in terms of providing health care in coastal areas, but Scarborough is being incredibly innovative in the way that it does that and I've learnt so much."

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On a bright and breezy morning, Professor Whitty stepped out on a Discoveries On Your Doorstep route, a North Yorkshire public health-funded initiative to encourage everyone to use public rights of way, around Scarborough Castle and the town's bays.

"We wanted Professor Whitty to see the way communities have pulled together across the area during the pandemic," said Louise Wallace, North Yorkshire's Director of Public Health. "And to show the challenges we face as well as the opportunities ahead."

Following his walk, Professor Whitty visited The Street to meet health, education and social care partners as well as community leaders and representatives from the Scarborough campus of Coventry University.

The Street is owned and managed by Coast and Vale Community Action and houses facilities such as a sports hall, music rooms and climbing wall used by young people and groups working with children in pre-school.

Among other initiatives, he learnt that the town will produce its first nursing graduates this summer and that speech and language development in early years which was funded through the Opportunity Area Programme, continues in Scarborough’s schools.

He also learnt of the commended work to attract and retain teachers to the coast and to attract employers that offer skills-based, longer-term employment rather than short-term seasonal jobs.

"There is a can-do attitude to tackle health inequalities and improve educational opportunities and develop the skills-base of the area," added Ms Wallace. "We were glad to show Professor Whitty the huge range of work that is going on to improve people's lives."

Professor Whitty went on to visit the Rainbow Centre which is funded by a range of partners and provides a food bank, community café, debt advice, support for people who are homeless, support for Afghan refugees and people from Eastern European communities and asylum seekers.

Professor Whitty's Scarborough tour also took in a visit to Scarborough Hospital to learn about workforce challenges as well as developments in provision and practice.

Simon Morritt, Chief Executive, York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “I was pleased to be able to welcome Professor Whitty to Scarborough Hospital. His recent report highlights the common challenges facing these communities with regard to health and wellbeing, from demographic and economic issues to the difficulties in recruiting health and care staff."

Mike Greene, Scarborough Council's Chief Executive, said: "It was a pleasure to welcome Professor Whitty to Scarborough and a useful opportunity to explain some of the health challenges we face on the North Yorkshire coast.

"Scarborough is an amazing place which many people come to visit, but the beauty can sometimes mask issues which affect many people in our communities.

"Creating a better place where people have healthier and happier lives is at the heart of the work we're doing to reduce inequalities."