'Inequalities during Covid-19 mirrors reality of pre-pandemic healthcare', expert says

27 January 2021, 20:29 | Updated: 27 January 2021, 20:58

Inequality in pandemic mirrors inequality in UK healthcare

By Kate Buck

The inequalities in Covid-19 mortality rates in the UK have only mirrored the inequalities which were already visible before the pandemic, an expert has said.

Professor Sir Michael Marmot, former World Medical Association president, told LBC's Eddie Mair there were two features of the pandemic which are similar to what was already happening - we looked bad compared to other rich countries and big inequalities in health.

But as the pandemic hit, it was those in more deprived areas which bore the brunt of the Covid-19 deaths.

One study by the ONS last year estimated that women in deprived areas were 133% more likely to die after contracting the virus, while the mortality rate for men in deprived areas went up by 114% compared to their richer counterparts.

"There were three very worrying features of health in the UK," Professor Marmot said.

"The first was a slow down in the improvement in life expectancy, it was more marked in the UK than any other rich country other than Iceland and the United States.

"Second, an increase in inequalities if you classify people by where they live and the level of deprivation. The more deprived the area the shorter the life expectancy.

"That social gradient had got steeper, in inequalities became bigger.

"And thirdly, the people in the most deprived 10% outside London, life expectancy and healthy life expectancy was already getting worse.

"So we looked very bad compared to other rich countries and we had increasing inequality.

"Then we come to the pandemic. And when that crashed upon us what did we find? We look very bad compared to other rich countries, and still do, and we have marked inequalities and mortality from Covid-19.

"The more deprived the area, the higher the mortality, which looks very similar to the social gradient in mortality from all causes.

"In other words the causes of inequalities in Covid-19 overlap considerably with the causes of inequalities in health more generally."

Watch the full exchange in the clip above.