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Lancashire’s ‘early deaths’ ratings highlight north-south divide

Preston has been named in the top 20% of areas where people die 'early'
Preston has been named in the top 20% of areas where people die 'early'
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It is grim up north when it comes to dying early, according to a new study.

Figures show “avoidable” deaths are significantly higher in deprived areas like Lancashire than they are in the south east.

Using figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) 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.

During 2014-16, Lancaster had a rate of 246.9 avoidable deaths per 100,000 of population, while Wyre had 234.4.

The figures place Lancaster as the eighth most deprived borough in Lancashire, with the seventh highest avoidable deaths rate in the county.

Nationally, only the north east has poorer statistics (279 average) than the north west (264 average). The national average is 218, with the south east the lowest at 192.

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.

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

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, said: “I think that health epitomises the north-south divide.”

The 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 ONS says could be prevented include HIV/Aids, accidental or self-inflicted injuries, various infections and drug use disorders.

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.”