Councillors have called for more money from the government to promote coronavirus vaccinations at a local level.
They asked Brighton and Hove City Council chief executive Geoff Raw to write to Health Secretary Matt Hancock to ask for funding for the council’s public health team.
Green councillor Sue Shanks drew on her own experience of measles as a child in the early 1960s before children were given measles jabs to protect them.
She told a virtual meeting of the full council on Friday (22 January) that she could remember lying in a dark room when she had the disease which left her needing glasses.
Councillor Shanks said that she was one of the lucky ones because before the jab was made available, in 1968, measles left some children blind and killed others.
The disease still afflicts people in some parts of the world, she said, where vaccination rates have dropped or the jab is not available.
Councillor Shanks, who chairs the council’s Health and Wellbeing Board, said: “We have been ignored throughout the pandemic. Not consulted, just informed. Left to deal with the consequences of central government mismanagement, especially earlier on in our care homes and adult social care services.
“It seems the government forgot our role in providing adult social care.
“The report from Amnesty International paints a grim picture of what went on in care homes and the lack of access for friends and family.”
The Amnesty International report – called As If Expendable – published last October, said that in the first three months of the pandemic, 18,562 people living in care homes died from covid-19.
Amnesty called for a full independent public inquiry into the consequences of sending thousands of untested patients from hospitals into care homes at the height of the first wave.
Fellow Green councillor Sarah Nield said that councils had lost £700 million in real teams in public health funding over the past five years.
She said that ministers should look again at sustainable public health funding as the government had offered nothing in the latest financial settlement.
Councillor Nield said: “A decade of austerity has left local authorities with no wriggle room. Short-sighted year-on-year cuts to local public health teams mean in real terms their funding is now 22 per cent lower per head than it was in 2015.
“This loss of over £700 million means there is no buffer left against a crisis – and then the crisis has come.”
She said that the pandemic had thrown a “stark spotlight” on the cuts as the council tried to address the inequalities left by the cuts.
Labour councillor Amanda Evans asked for specific covid support for black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities and for help tackling health inequalities in low-income groups.
She said that Britain’s “devastating death toll” of more than 100,000 people was directly linked to the downgrading of local health teams.
Councillor Evans said: “Coronavirus has shone a light on the deep – and deepening – inequalities in our society.
“We have seen that people are hugely more likely to succumb to serious illness or death if they live in poor or overcrowded accommodation, if they’re in low-income groups, have a poor diet, work on the front line in health and social care settings or in other close-up and personal jobs like public transport.
“We have seen that our BAME communities have been disproportionally hard hit – up to three times more likely to need intensive hospital care or to die – for reasons no one yet fully understands.
“But that certainly includes those communities being more likely to be already disadvantaged in many of the ways I just listed.
“As the crisis continues, the cumulative impact on mental health that is beginning to be apparent in these most vulnerable sections of our population will also need to be addressed.”
Conservative councillor Samer Bagaeen said that the while the pandemic was global, the solutions were local.
He said: “If our ambition is to deliver a high-quality service locally, we have to ask ourselves what are we doing locally in order to do this and are we delivering value for money for residents of the city?
“I believe that there is a lot of wriggle room. What I don’t think we are doing is holding our partners to account.”
Councillor Bageen said that the council and clinical commissioning group (CCG) had to be honest with each other about what they were doing.
He applauded the drive to vaccinate people but said that the pace was much slower than in other parts of the country and the council needed to ask why.
As the only BAME councillor, he said that such communities had also suffered more negative effects from the lockdowns.
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