Morecambe MP David Morris refutes rickets claim

David Morris.
David Morris.
Share this article

MP David Morris says claims that rickets is becoming a problem among Morecambe residents due to poverty are ‘categorically not true’.

Concern was raised among the Morecambe community after an ITV report in December about poverty in the resort.

Dr Andy Knox.

Dr Andy Knox.

In the programme, Carnforth GP Dr Andy Knox said he was seeing an increase in reports of rickets among young children.

This was combined with families in poverty struggling to pay bills and buy food, and led to a community group being set up to support families.

However, Mr Morris says he has now been told that the concerns are unfounded, and Dr Knox has apologised for any misunderstanding.

“Statements have been made about poverty and rickets in Morecambe as a result of television interviews with a number of organisations in our district,” Mr Morris said.

Dr Alex Gaw, Clinical chair for NHS Lancashire North CCG.

Dr Alex Gaw, Clinical chair for NHS Lancashire North CCG.

“These appear to have caused some misunderstanding and public concern. One of the most worrying claims the show made was that there was poverty-related rickets being diagnosed in Morecambe.

“After a full investigation of the facts I can tell you this is categorically not true.

“In some cases a misunderstanding of the condition has caused confusion in our area that we were facing an epidemic of rickets, in fact we were not.

“There are cases of vitamin D deficiency in our area, but this is in decline and is not caused by poverty.”

Mr Morris asked NHS England to investigate the facts being claimed by the programme, and was told that the doctor “did not appreciate how a taped interview can be edited to sensationalise it”.

He said: “I am obviously extremely concerned Granada was able to use this footage to scare my constituents into thinking that there were serious health concerns in the community.”

Dr Sakthi Karunanithi, director of Public Health and Wellbeing for Lancashire, said: “Vitamin D deficiency is an issue in our population based primarily on low level of exposure to sunlight.

“Our data shows vitamin D deficiency has been rising since 2012/13 with a peak in 2015/16 but has begun to decline again.”

Dr Alex Gaw, chairman of Morecambe Bay Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “With about 90 per cent of vitamin D synthesized in the skin through the action of ultraviolet (UVB) sunlight on cholesterol, diet plays a smaller but important role in vitamin D deficiency especially in sun poor countries (such as the UK).

“We are seeing more vitamin D deficiency which does reflect increased awareness and testing for Vitamin D deficiency in our practices. We believe this increase is contributed to by less outdoor lifestyles (with advances in computers and gaming and more choice on TV), as well as an increased skin cancer awareness and the guidance to cover up.

“Whilst we know that poverty, deprivation and education all play a role in poorer health outcomes rickets is not directly caused by poverty, the causes are multifactorial.

“We are sorry for the misunderstanding arising from the TV reporting which suggested rickets in Morecambe was directly caused by poverty.”

A statement from North Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group said: “We would like to clarify that rickets is a very rare condition and has multiple causes including genetic, social and economic factors.

“In every area, including Morecambe Bay, there will be a number of cases each year of people with vitamin D deficiency which at its most severe can lead to rickets; however this is very rare and is not contagious.

“The CCG is currently working with partner organisations to correct any misunderstandings which may still exist.”

Dr Andy Knox said: “Towards the end of 2017, I made a statement about rickets in the context of a Granada News piece about poverty in Morecambe that seems to have caused some upset and misunderstanding – for which I am sorry.

“Rickets is a rare condition and has drawn concern from the Chief Medical Officer and The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and has multiple causes, including lack of sunlight, poor diet and genetic.

“Where there are cases of rickets in Morecambe and the local area, all of these will have multifactorial causes.

“People have perhaps perceived that this is a condition that can be caught or passed from person to person, which is not the case.

“I had hoped that my interview would draw attention to the wider impact of childhood poverty and its effect on child development, health and wellbeing.

“In my work, I am passionate about working with our communities, fellow health workers, public sector partners, the voluntary sector and our elected members to tackle the hugely important issues surrounding the health and wellbeing of our population, including health inequality.

“I look forward to focusing on the much bigger issues that we are facing. Together we really can change the future.”