Longer Lives, http://longerlives.phe.org.uk/ is a new Public Health England (PHE) website which shows how local authority areas rate on premature deaths (under the age of 75) from each of England’s four biggest killers – cancer, heart disease and stroke, lung disease and liver disease. Using a traffic-light rating system, Longer Lives ranks areas showing those above average in tackling avoidable deaths as green, while those that are shortest-lived are red. The Lancashire County Council area is solidly deepest red on all factors. But Manchester is definitely threatening our lead. There is so much more that can be done.
Many people are still under the misapprehension that health issues are tackled by the NHS. However under new legislation local councils have been given a pivotal role in leading the local health and care system, through their Health and Well-being Boards, to improve the health of their local citizens. (So next time you see your Councillor, be sure and tell him / her about that pain you've been getting.) Their new public health role was part of the changes to the whole health system in April 2013, part of a move to 'empower local areas to make real change in people’s lives'. To help them deliver these improvements the government has given them £5.46bn of funding to tell us to stop smoking, eat and drink more healthily and take more exercise. And to tell our kids to do likewise. And cheer up, for heaven's sakes!
It's not clear if this will result in any action on school dinner menus and licensing of food outlets close to schools too. Or affordable membership rates at local authority fitness centres. Studies show that people who are caring for elderly or disabled relatives are particularly likely to experience poor health, (especially during the periods between Atos assessments and appeals when their households must live without income).
Lancashire County Council has already made an invaluable contribution to these figures over the last two years by cutting respite and social care (ie. home-helps) and exponentially increasing charges for services such as day and residential care.
Some studies have suggested that northerners do not seek treatment for potentially life-threatening conditions early enough. Local GPs who offer repeat prescriptions of ibuprofen and paracetamol (well-known to be particularly effective on the northern working class physique) during those crucial early visits can play a vital role here.
Prof Paul Johnstone, Regional Director for PHE in the North of England, said: “It’s important to be clear that there are lots of reasons why discrepancies in levels of health exist. Lots of issues like being in a job, living in safe housing, good town planning with green spaces and leisure areas and access to good education all affect how healthy people are. One of the opportunities in moving public health from the NHS into local government, is to help tackle these wider issues.
“Not everything can be done locally either. Job creation, regeneration and policies on childhood poverty, alcohol consumption, tobacco, educational attainment and promoting healthy eating are also the responsibility of national government, Going forward, we need a joined up approach, across areas and nationally, to look at how by working together we can really turn things round."
The Longer Lives website provides examples of best practice from other local authorities, guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), and links to NHS Choices so that individuals, families and citizens can learn about these conditions and what they can to do to improve their health and their local authority.
This data is the first information to be rolled out as part of the Government’s plans to provide the public and health professionals in local areas with clear easy accessible information on how health and care services are doing in improving health outcomes wherever we live.
In tandem with these changes, the local Hospital NHS Trust is cutting its services overall by 13% this year with further cuts planned year on year.