Public Health Scotland (PHS) today welcome the publication of the Chief Medical Officer’s annual report, which summarises the health of the nation, and celebrates examples of sustainable, personalised and realistic health and social care in the current context.

In our role as a data and intelligence-driven national public health organisation, PHS worked with the Chief Medical Officer to write several chapters of the report. We provided an overview of current issues, including stalled life expectancy trends and the direct and indirect impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. This highlighted the health inequalities that are preventing people from living longer and healthier lives.

The report describes how Scotland experienced a prolonged period of rising health inequalities and stalled life expectancy trends prior to the pandemic. It shows how COVID-19, and the associated control measures, have exacerbated these underlying health and social inequalities in our society.

We know that the wider determinants of health such as economic, social and environmental factors have played a key role in these trends, and recognise that health inequalities cannot be resolved by the provision of good health and social care alone. The Chief Medical Officer’s Report sets out examples of the whole system approaches which can help tackle health inequalities, and urges professionals in health and social care to be aware of this and consider what mitigating action they can take. PHS have produced a range of materials, measures and tools that support colleagues to address inequalities at national and local levels. 

Dr Gerry McCartney, Consultant in Public Health and Head of Public Health Observatory, said:

“We urgently need to address health inequalities in Scotland. Our premature morality rates have worsened in the most deprived 40% of areas in Scotland, and inequalities in premature mortality have increased rapidly since 2012. What’s more the direct and indirect impacts of COVID-19 have not been experienced equally across our communities, and are known to have exacerbated these underlying inequality trends.

“This emphasises the importance of not only protecting those at highest risk from the virus, but also doing everything we can to mitigate the wider public health and socio-economic challenges arising from the pandemic. Understanding those impacts is a crucial part of our efforts to respond to and recover from COVID-19. The Chief Medical Officer’s report puts these challenges in the context of the wider issues affecting Scotland’s public health, and encourages healthcare professionals to consider how they can help address the health inequalities we face.

“Public Health Scotland’s work is driven by a vision of a Scotland where everybody thrives, where the nation’s health is protected and healthy life expectancy increases. We are committed to working with partners across the NHS and in health and social care, national and local government and the third sector, to tackle the socio-economic inequalities that underlie the health inequalities we see today, and help to make them a thing of the past”.

Read the full Chief Medical Officer’s Annual Report 2021: Recover, Restore and Renew (external website)

Last updated: 06 October 2022