Preston named in top 20% of places where people die 'too early'

It is grim up north when it comes to dying early, according to a new study out today.

Wednesday, 18th July 2018, 10:40 pm
Updated Thursday, 19th July 2018, 12:32 am
Preston has been named in the top 20% of areas where people die 'early'

Figures show “avoidable” deaths are significantly higher in deprived areas like Lancashire than they are in the stockbroker belt of the South East.

And Preston is in the worst 20 per cent in the UK for people dying before their time - many of them from self-inflicted conditions.

The study, carried out by the BBC’s Shared Data Unit, proves the north-south divide is still a gaping chasm in terms of health.

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Using figures from the Office of National Statistics for 2014-16, the study says more people die prematurely in the North of England than they do in the rest of the country.

And the analysis shows a direct link between the level of deprivation in an area and the rate of avoidable deaths.

Manchester is branded the worst place in England for people needlessly dying early.

Andy Burnham, Greater Manchester Mayor, said: “It is scandalous that in 2018 people’s life chances are still determined by the postcode of the bed they were born in.”

Blackpool comes out as the second worst district nationally, with Middlesbrough, Hull and Liverpool not far behind.

Yet areas like South Oxfordshire, South Cambridgeshire and East Dorset have less than half the rate of premature deaths of their northern counterparts.

“These figures are stark reminders of the inequalities that exist in our society,” said Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, Lancashire’s director of public health and wellbeing.

And Coun Peter Britcliffe, chair of the county’s health scrutiny committee, added: “I think that health epitomises the north-south divide.

“Not only do we do worse in the north, but there are areas of deprivation in places like Preston and Hyndburn where it makes even worse reading.”

The latest figures show that almost a quarter of all UK deaths in 2016 (141,101 out of 597,206) were considered avoidable - categorised as being under the age of 74 where “timely and effective healthcare or public health interventions” were available.

The list of conditions deemed preventable or treatable includes heart disease, some cancers, respiratory diseases and type 2 diabetes, where lifestyle and environment may be a contributory factor.

Others that the Office of National Statistics (ONS) says could be prevented include HIV/Aids, accidental or self-inflicted injuries, various infections and drug use disorders.

In Preston during 2014-16 there were 956 deaths, giving it a rate of 280.4 avoidable per 100,000 of population.

Blackpool had a rate of 375.9, Blackburn with Darwen 317.2, Burnley 311.7 and Hyndburn 287.4. The rest of the county’s 14 districts were lower, with Lancaster 246.9, Wyre 234.4 and Chorley 220.0.

The lowest avoidable death rates were in South Ribble at 207.0 per 100,000 population and, best of all, Ribble Valley on 185.4 - around half that of Blackpool.

Dr Sakthi said: “Improving life chances requires action from getting the best beginning for our children and empowering people to have better control of their lives. This is why narrowing the gaps in health between disadvantaged and more affluent communities is one of our key priorities.

“Our targeted work with communities across Lancashire aims to mobilise everyone for health, join up services, address unwarranted variation and address the wider determinants of health like school readiness, housing and employment.

“We’re also investing in measures to encourage people to stop smoking, be more physically active, reduce obesity and tackle alcohol and substance misuse.

“We’ll continue to work with the NHS and other partners to improve people’s life chances in Lancashire.”

Coun Britcliffe added: “This is exactly why we have to have a health scrutiny function so we can continue to monitor this and keep everyone on their toes.

“I know from the visits that we (the committee) have had from various organisations that work is being done to address this problem and there are plans to try and narrow this gap.

“What we have to do is monitor it and make sure it is successful.

“But it’s not just health. Suicide rates are higher in our pockets of deprivation and there is a long-term plan to bring the rate of suicides down.

“It is all a matter of working together with health and education and just improve the quality of people’s lives in the north. I know many councils are working hard to address it.

“We would always like more (government) money and it may be that we should be looking at bringing more money in to the north to address these inequalities.”