Hemsworth Labour MP Jon Trickett led a Westminster Hall debate this morning on health inequalities and the COVID-19 outbreak in West Yorkshire. The left-winger challenged the government to do more to get a handle on the comparatively high rate of infection in his home county and noted how the rate there declined far more slowly than the national average after the vaccine was diverted away from Yorkshire on 11 February.
Trickett highlighted the latest Public Health England (PHE) figures showing that in the last four weeks Yorkshire and the Humber – which has less than 10% of England’s population – accounted for 36.2% of all workplace multi-infections. He argued the occupational structure of his area meant enhanced risk of workplace infections.
The former Labour front-bencher called on the government to deploy rapid response teams to areas of high infection so that local health groups (CCGs) and local authorities can tailor their response more effectively.
It is completely unacceptable that once again the government’s decisions are based on what is happening in the south of the country, when up here in Yorkshire the infection rates are still raging. I demand that the government takes immediate action to correct this injustice.
There is a class dimension to this, as well as a regional one. It is the low paid working class who are most exposed by the government’s failures.
1. It is possible to note that now the vaccine was diverted that my area’s CV19 rate declined much more slowly than other areas. Indeed, in the medium term it continued to rise. More than 762 people in Wakefield have now lost their lives, a figure above the average for local authorities. The levels of vaccination in my ward are progressing much slower down the age structure in comparison to the Health Secretary or Health Minister.
2. The occupational structure of red wall areas, and Yorkshire in particular meant enhanced risk of workplace infections. In the 4 weeks to date, Yorkshire & Humber accounted for 36.2% of all workplace multi-infections (PHE). The work from home data (ONS) shows that manual, semi-skilled and front facing roles tend to have higher levels of working on site. Professional classes & the hospitality sector had higher levels of work from home, and furlough respectively.
3. In comparison to the Health Secretary and Health Minister’s area of West Suffolk, my area of Wakefield is currently experiencing nine times higher levels of infections, and indeed in one instance a ward has 1,700% higher rates of CV19.
4. Lastly, there is a strong argument that existing inequalities exacerbated by austerity, and the north south divide have made matters worse. In Yorkshire, especially rural areas, access to critical care beds is much lower. There is no doubt that the 21,000 beds axed since 2010, the 100 NHS Walk In Centres closing and the 25 A&E ward closures have made matters worse.
In today’s Westminster Hall debate, I proposed a policy to deploy rapid response teams to areas of high infection so that local health groups (CCGs) can tailor their response more effectively. The vaccine in itself is no panacea to this pandemic. It will continue to pose risks to my community and others. This would be one tool to tackle this more effectively.
Watch Trickett’s speech below:
The 7 day rate for Matt Hancock’s West Suffolk constituency is 8.4, while the rate for Boris Johnson’s Hillingdon is 36. The average for England is 27.9.
Wakefield’s is 84.
There are also significant class and regional differences in the number of people able to work from home and reduce the chance of infection:
- Professional occupations working 69.6%
- Managers, directors and senior officials 67.3%
- Caring, leisure and other services 14.9%
- Process plant and machine operatives (5.4%).
Yorkshire – 37.6%
UK – 46.6%
London – 57.2%
East – 47.3%
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