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Cardiovascular disease cuts life expectancy in poor areas

18 September 2009

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People in poor areas in the UK are likely to die 20 years before those living in rich ones because of different care practices, a report into cardiovascular disease (CVD) has found.

The combined life expectancy for men and women in the wealthy Moreton Hall area of Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk is 93.4 years according to data from the Office for National Statistics. This compares poorly with people living in the Middlehaven dockland area of Middlesbrough, who live an average 67.8 years.

Barbara Young, chairwoman of the Care Quality Commission (CQC), said: “We cannot rest while health inequalities exist on the scale they do.”

The CQC report, Closing the Gap, said patients get different standards of care in different areas “as many primary care services, including GP practices, do not follow proven practice consistently”.

People in the poorest areas may not be getting access to the services they need because GPs in deprived areas are less likely to record whether someone has CVD, the report found.

The UK has one of the highest CVD rates in Europe and the report called for measures to improve GPs’ performances on statin prescribing, which reduces cholesterol levels, and targeting of poor areas.

It also found too many GPs were prescribing expensive branded statins when equally-effective, cheaper, non-branded ones were available.

GPs in deprived areas are also less likely to prescribe nicotine-replacement products to help patients stop smoking, which remains “the biggest single avoidable cause of death, killing some 82,000 people a year”.

The CQC report calls for the maximum payment threshold for GPs’ financial incentives to be increased to encourage doctors to help manage the cholesterol levels of more patients.

Copyright © Press Association 2009