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North-south death divide 'shocking'


Figures indicate a higher risk of early death in the north of England than the south

Figures indicate a higher risk of early death in the north of England than the south

PA Archive/Press Association Images

Figures indicate a higher risk of early death in the north of England than the south

People living in the north of England have a greater risk of dying early than those in the south, according to a national league table of premature death rates.

The Longer Lives website from Public Health England ranks local authorities using a traffic light system, ranging from red for the worst areas to green for the best.

There is a clear north/south divide in the statistics, which show the number of people under the age of 75 who died over a two-year period, with Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt describing it as a "shocking variation".

Manchester and Blackpool are the two local authorities that recorded the worst results for specific causes of death highlighted by Public Health England - heart disease and stroke, cancer, liver disease and lung disease. Manchester also has the worst overall level of early death.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "This shocking variation in early and unnecessary deaths means people's lives are needlessly cut short and that cannot continue unchecked. I want areas to use the data released today to identify local public health challenges like smoking, drinking and obesity and to take action to help achieve our ambition for saving 30,000 lives a year by 2020."

In Manchester, there were 455 premature deaths per 100,000 people from 2009 to 2011. The region has the highest death rate from cancer in the country, with 152 deaths per 100,000 people recorded, as well as from heart disease and stroke, with 116 deaths per 100,000 people.

Blackpool has the highest rates for liver and lung disease, with 39 and 62 premature deaths per 100,000 respectively in that time. Wokingham has the lowest overall premature mortality rate with 200 such deaths in the same period, making it the best in the list of 150 local authorities. It is also the best region for heart disease and stroke, with the lowest number of deaths - 40 per 100,000 from 2009 to 2011.

Professor John Newton, chief knowledge officer at Public Health England, said it was "urgent" that something is done about the "health inequalities" in England. He said: "The message for local authorities is that there are a large number of people dying before they should and that there are things that can be done."

There are 103,000 avoidable early deaths in England each year, according to Public Health England, with the four major killers identified being responsible for 75% of those deaths. That places it as seventh out of 17 European countries for men and 15th for women - a figure that "must improve", Professor Newton added. Recent figures show the situation is improving however, with overall premature death rates coming down, he added.

Mr Hunt, speaking at a school in Lambeth, south London, where he met pupils and staff to discuss its healthy living programme, described the website as a "radical new piece of information" that would "spur action" by local authorities.

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