Poor men live 11 fewer years than their more fortunate Bedford borough neighbours

Poverty is killing poor people in Bedford years before their more fortunate neighbours in the borough, a council committee heard.

Although Bedford Borough ranks in 52nd place for deprivation out of 152 English local authorities, the borough council’s Health and Wellbeing Board heard that there are “pockets of significant deprivation”.

Borough Hall, Bedford

Borough Hall, Bedford

Ian Brown, the council’s chief officer for public health, said: “Life expectancy has stalled and on average there is an 11.4-year difference for men between the most and least deprived wards in the borough.”

His report said women from the most deprived areas are predicted to live on average seven years fewer than those from the least deprived. For men, the gap is 11.4 years.

“These gaps have fluctuated over the past few years but are not closing,” the report said.

On average across the borough men in Bedford can expect to live to 79.9 years, and women to 83.2 years, with 63.2 years of healthy life for men and 65 for women.

The greatest deprivation is centred on the wards of Castle, Harpur, Cauldwell, Goldington, Kingsbrook and Queens Park, with pockets of deprivation in rural areas, the report says.

The council is attempting to help people live longer lives by encouraging actions across a range of areas.

Mr Brown’s report said there had been some success in persuading new mums not to smoke but ground is being lost in other areas.

Rates of self-harming, bullying, and mental health issues have also caused concern, with rising rates of admission to hospital.

“This needs more work to understand what is happening,” said Mr Brown. “We will review the data and come back to the board.”

Rates of immunisation against measles has dropped as anti-vaccination messages are spread on social media, the committee was told.

Rates of immunisation against flu have also dropped, and the council is planning to try to convince people in the South Asian community and other vulnerable groups to increase their use of the flu vaccine.

There have also been increases in children with decayed teeth, obesity, and diabetes.

Excess winter deaths increased by 58 per cent from August 2016 to July 2017, with 128 people dying during cold spells. The council is working up plans to inform elderly people how to keep warm.

“Many of these issues are driven by societal issues, like poverty,” said Mr Brown.

“Sixty per cent of someone’s life chances are not to do with hospitals or the health service, they are based on where you live,” he said.

“They are to do with the wider determinants of health. If we want to make a difference we need to pick up these wider issues.

“If we want to make sure we turn things around, healthy life expectancy is something we need to focus on.”

Mr Brown’s report was noted, and it remains as a standing agenda item for future meetings of the board.