The public health crisis

A look back from the Director of Public Health for Brighton and Hove; Alistair Hill

Some of the earliest cases of COVID-19 in the UK were in Brighton & Hove. Before COVID-19 had entered common parlance and become the topic on everyone’s lips we, as a city, were seeing the impact on our communities, on our services and on our system.

As the biggest public health crisis in our lifetime started to emerge we quickly realised there was only one way to tackle it and that was as a system; proper system-wide working emerged in a way that had been talked about for years.

The pandemic has touched the lives of everyone in a very real way. For some COVID-19 will have meant bereavement and grief with tragedies across the county as people lost loved ones.  Many across Sussex have seen real financial hardship as a result of this virus, with job losses and financial problems, this has been a time of real hardship and anxiety as livelihoods have been stripped away. Others faced the risk of violence as domestic abuse rose. The impact on people’s mental health will be a very real and lasting issue. Everyone’s lives have been restricted and altered by the disease – some temporarily dealing with the inconvenience of not being able to access their usual routine, others in life-changing or tragic ways.

In the centre of the crisis partnership working has been essential. No part of public service has been left untouched and we have had to properly and correctly organise ourselves around residents. We have collaborated with partners across public services, voluntary and community sector, businesses and communities.  That must remain our approach as we work hard to protect our communities through vaccination, and address the long term health physical and mental impacts of the pandemic and associated restrictions.

One resounding theme has been the degree to which the pandemic has highlighted the importance of heath inequalities. The last year has shone a light on the real need to tackle these. This public health crisis will remain a marker for how we operate for years to come and we have to do that together as a system.