Early Death Atlas Shows 'Shocking' Variations

Thomas Moore, Health and Science Correspondent
Early Death Atlas Shows 'Shocking' Variations

Huge variations in death rates from diseases have been highlighted by a new interactive "atlas" of England.

The health map released by Public Health England (PHE) show that people living in Wokingham have the lowest risk of a premature death - with 200 in every 100,000 people dying before the age of 75.

People in Manchester are more than twice as likely to die early, with a rate of 455 in every 100,000 - the highest in England.

Overall 103,000 people a year die prematurely from cancer, or diseases of the heart, lung or liver.

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 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."

The highest death rate from cancer in the country was also in Manchester, with 152 deaths per 100,000 people recorded, as well as from heart disease and stroke, with 116 deaths per 100,000 people.

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

North Yorkshire, York and East Riding of Yorkshire are the only three local authorities north of Derbyshire to be ranked among the country's 'best' for premature mortality outcomes.

The PHE  website enables people to search for local health statistics and uses a traffic light system, ranging from red for the worst areas to green for the best.

For the first time users will be able to compare the chances of a premature death to other areas with a similar socio-economic make-up.

It shows that areas such as Kensington and Chelsea, Enfield and Rotherham are doing better than average for their local population, with high rates of deprivation, yet lower than expected premature death rates.

By contrast Bracknell Forest, York and Milton Keynes are underperforming for their more affluent residents.

Professor John Newton, who compiled the data, said councils now have responsibility for improving public health - with a ring-fenced budget of £5.5bn over two years.

"You have to look at the physical environment people are living in. That may not have much to do with the NHS. Councils influence transport and housing. It is a shared responsibility," he said.

But Councillor Zoe Patrick, chair of the Local Government Association's community wellbeing board, said: "This data must be used with caution.

"Using it out of context to create any sort of national league table dangerously oversimplifies matters and ignores the very complex socio-economic and cultural factors that affect the premature mortality rate.

"Attempts to measure performance and rank councils in this way are therefore deeply troubling."