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Last Updated: Friday, 12 March, 2004, 11:07 GMT
City lifespan gap increases
GP and patient
The lives of some men in parts of Glasgow are shortening
The gap in life expectancy between the most affluent and deprived areas of Glasgow has increased in the last decade, according to NHS figures.

The finding comes in one of three NHS Scotland reports out on Friday.

First Minister Jack McConnell has described the figures as "completely unacceptable" but said that money had been channelled into needy areas.

Opposition parties said they were a national scandal and required a radical response to address health inequality.

'Relative gap' wider

The data looks at issues such as population, ill health, crime, safety, business and employment. Each constituency is compared with the Scottish average and change over the 10 years to 2001 is measured.

Mr McConnell declared: "In this day and age in Scotland it is completely unacceptable that anyone should be consigned to a life of ill health, restricted opportunity and a shortened life span because of the circumstances into which they were born, or where they live."

In Glasgow's Springburn area, the average life expectancy of men was found to be 66, while those living in Shettleston can expect to die at 64.

Other findings include:

  • Heart disease mortality rates are highest in Glasgow Maryhill and lowest in Edinburgh west

  • More than a third of pregnant women smoke in Glasgow Anniesland compared with 13% in Eastwood

  • Hospital admissions due to self-harm are highest in Aberdeen Central and lowest in East Kilbride

  • 26% of three-year-olds in Kirkcaldy are overweight compared to 15% in Maryhill

Ken Judge, professor of public health and health policy at Glasgow University, said that in general terms health was getting better for everyone but that the "relative gap had widened".

He said: "I think across the UK there has been a determination to promote social justice and tackle inequalities.

Cigarette stub
If there is a single quick fix we can go for here we can reduce smoking prevalence rates in our most deprived communities
Tom McCabe
Deputy Health Minister

"Although they are the right policies they haven't been intensive enough, they haven't been radical enough, not enough has been spent on them."

But Mr Judge said that the most important "single difference" in life expectancy was smoking, with "poorer people smoking more and being more addicted".

"We have started to deliver treatment to help them but we have adopted a one-size-fits-all approach," he went on.

"The most addicted, the poorest smokers need more intensive support and we are not delivering that in the right areas.

"All organisations in Scotland, if they are serious about tackling the health divide, should start with smoking and that means delivering more targeted and intensive services to the poorest people and bans on smoking in public places."

'Complex figures'

Scottish National Party leader John Swinney said the findings were "a national disgrace" and illustrated the Scottish Executive's complacency.

He urged ministers to "stop burying their heads in the sand and pretending the problem will go away".

Deputy Health Minister Tom McCabe agreed that smoking was a crucial issue in improving the nation's health.

He said: "These are very complex figures and they can throw up confusing results but there is a thread which runs through this and it is smoking.

"Where smoking prevalence is high, life expectancy is low, where smoking prevalence is low then life expectancy is high.

Man in JobCentre
Unemployment is a factor in life expectancy
"If there is a single quick fix we can go for here we can reduce smoking prevalence rates in our most deprived communities."

However, the minister would not be drawn on whether the executive would introduce a ban on smoking in public places.

He said public consultations would be undertaken before any final decision was made.

Mr McCabe said it should be remembered that the figures in the reports were based on 2001 figures and since that time many initiatives had been introduced.

"We are directing money at the poorest communities, health money is being redistributed in different ways aimed at people in the greatest need, the executive is doing a lot to tackle this problem. Overall health is improving, but it is not improving fast enough," said Mr McCabe.

Dr Harry Burns, director of public health for NHS Greater Glasgow, said: "These profiles flag up the real need for radical thinking to improve the health of the most disadvantaged people in our communities."

BBC Scotland's David Henderson
"Three new reports reveal a health gulf between parts of Scotland"

BBC Scotland's Suzanne Allan
The contrasting life chances of two teenage boys

Health figures make grim reading
12 Mar 04  |  Scotland
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12 Mar 04  |  Scotland
Poorer Scottish men 'die younger'
07 Mar 04  |  Scotland
Drive to tackle healthcare gulf
20 Feb 04  |  Scotland
Women's 'equality' is health issue
26 Sep 01  |  Scotland

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