East London premature death rates among UK’s worst

A patient is tested for carbon monoxide levels in his lungs

A patient is tested for carbon monoxide levels in his lungs - Credit: Archant

Early mortality rates in east London are among the highest in the country - with more people dying prematurely in Tower Hamlets than anywhere else in the capital, new figures reveal.

Rankings published by Public Health England – part of the department of health – show Newham and Tower Hamlets are both among the worst-performing areas in the country in terms of early deaths.

Tower Hamlets is the 137th worst local authority out of a total of 150, with 347 deaths of under-75s per 100,000 residents.

And neighbouring Newham only ranks marginally better, coming in at 116th, with 316 early mortalities per 100,000 people.

The “traffic light” ratings reveal a startling disparity between premature death rates in wealthy areas such as Richmond and those with high poverty levels.

Tower Hamlets director of public health Dr Somen Banerjee said the correlation between deprivation and bad health was well-established thanks to poor diets and higher levels of smoking and drinking.

“If you have low income levels, that’s going to have an impact on your health,” he said.

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“It’s not surprising that we have premature death rates that are similar to neighbouring boroughs like Newham and Hackney.”

The figures provide a breakdown of numbers of premature deaths from the four “major killers” – cancer; heart disease and stroke; lung disease; and liver disease.

Both Newham and Tower Hamlets fared particularly badly for rates of heart disease and strokes. Newham ranked at 141 in the league table of local authorities, while Tower Hamlets came in at 144.

Doctors say the figures could be down to the boroughs’ demographics. Both have large Asian populations – most notably Tower Hamlets, which has a 32 per cent Bangladeshi or British Bangladeshi population.

“Heart disease is very strongly linked with deprivation, and another factor is that south Asian populations have a high risk of diabetes and that’s linked with heart disease and strokes,” explained Dr Banerjee.

Dr Hardip Nandra, a GP at Essex Lodge Surgery in Greengate Street, Plaistow, also highlighted high levels of diabetes as an explanation for the two boroughs’ problems with heart disease.

While Tower Hamlets was among the worst areas of the UK in all four of the causes of death examined, Newham performed “better than average” when it came to premature death rates from cancer.

Dr Nandra confirmed more patients were going to see their GPs after a drive to raise awareness of symptoms.

“In east London there was a recent flurry of activity, and lots of patients have started coming through with early signs of cancer,” he said.

The coalition government’s controversial National Health Service reforms mean councils have, since April, been given a bigger say in local health services – something Dr Banajee thinks will have a positive impact.

“The factors that are linked to high levels of premature mortality are things that are in the control of the council, so public health can work with services across the council to impact on that,” he said.

For more information, visit the Public Health England Longer Lives website here: http://longerlives.phe.org.uk/