How do we end shame of needless deaths?
For all the glitz and glamour of Blackpool, and for all the improvements made over the past decade '“ from overhauling the Prom to attracting A-listers like Will Smith, and from cleaning the beaches to building new one-of-a-kind rollercoasters '“ there is one tag the resort just can't seem to shake off.
Plagued by poverty, obesity, drugs, drink, and lack of high-paying year-round jobs, the town continues to have more avoidable deaths than any other town in England except Manchester, according to new official figures.
They were released just days after The Gazette revealed how the scourge of former legal high Spice continues to tighten its grip on some of Blackpool’s most vulnerable people – with two deaths in as many weeks of people found lifeless in Talbot Road and Deansgate in the town centre.
Although inquests will be held to determine the causes, it was feared both may have been drug-related. Police were not treating either death as suspicious.
Blackpoool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard said: “Blackpool experiences a range of public health challenges.
I always encourage the local health economy to put preventative programmes in place to ensure a smooth pathway for patients. The Government’s £20 billion commitment to the NHS is dependent on local health economies putting forward ideas to help tackle precisely these challenges.
“At the same time it is important to address other key issues which affect health and wellbeing. I have worked hard to ensure Blackpool is benefiting £6m opportunity area fund, targeted at improving social mobility and improving the life chances of residents.”
Analysis showed a direct link between the rate of avoidable deaths in an area and the level of deprivation.
Deaths are classed as avoidable when they happen to somebody under 74 and the cause is determined to be preventable or treatable.
They include deaths from conditions such as heart disease, some cancers, respiratory disease, and diabetes – where lifestyle and environment may have contributed – as well as HIV/AIDS, accidents, suicides, rubella, and other infections and drug-use disorders.
Blackpool has well-documented problems with obesity and remains the English capital for takeaways, a transient population, a significant number of hospital admissions because of drink or drugs, smoking, and some of the poorest neighbourhoods in the country.
Jon Date, from think tank International Longevity Centre UK, said: “Although life expectancy is increasing overall in the UK, improvements are slower paced in more deprived areas meaning that the gap in life expectancy between the rich and poor is slowly worsening over time. On average women live longer than men in the UK, however this gap is shrinking. Living in a deprived neighbourhood continues to have a worse impact on men’s life expectancy than women’s. The reasons behind these disparities are complex, but it is utterly unacceptable to witness a growing health divide in 21st century Britain.”
The Department of Health and Social Care said: “The number of deaths can fluctuate each year, but generally people are living longer. We have commissioned Public Health England to undertake a review of life expectancy and mortality trends.” She said more than £16bn was being invested to help tackle public health issues.
A big divide?
Manchester has more avoidable deaths than anywhere else in England, which just short of 400 per 100,000 people, followed closely by Blackpool at around 375 per 100,000.
Middlesbrough, Kingston Upon Hull, Liverpool, Hart, South Oxfordshire, South Cambridgeshire, East Dorset, and Chiltern all follow. In terms of regions, the north east is the worst, followed by the north west. London, the south west, the east, and the south east, had fewest.