Lakes MP sounds 'rural health' alert as figures show early deaths up in Cumbria

CUMBRIA has been ranked among the worst counties in the country for early deaths.

New statistics show that in relation to premature death, the county is in the 'red zone'.

It ranked

* 80th in cancer treatment

* 77th in heart disease

* 70th in lung disease

* 48th out of 150 for liver disease.

Westmorland MP Tim Farron has now called for the county council and the NHS to 'meet the challenge of local healthcare'.

The new website from Public Health England shows 'serious disparities' in the number of early deaths between the north and south of England.

Local authorities are ranked using a traffic light system, with red for the worst areas for premature death and green for the best.

Mr Farron has long campaigned for radiotherapy services to be brought to Westmorland General and says he is working to bring better health services throughout South Lakeland.

He said: “We must work tirelessly to end these health inequalities – rural counties face very different health challenges and governments of all colours have failed to meet these.

'With an older than average population, we desperately need services that meet our needs – especially when it comes to cancer treatment.

'These statistics strongly back up the case that we need radiotherapy services at Westmorland General to build on the success we have had bringing chemotherapy to South Lakeland.”

The news has alarmed those with health care responsibilities in the county, who say they are driving a number of initiatives to improve the situation.

Councillor Patricia Bell, Cumbria County Council's cabinet member for Public Health and Communities, said: "Tackling inequalities is critical to improving health across Cumbria.

''The county council is committed to working with local communities, the NHS and other partners to improve Cumbria's health.

"For example, the council now funds free health checks for everyone in Cumbria aged 40-74 years.

"These checks, which are available in GP practices and selected pharmacies, can provide an early warning of more serious health problems and help people manage their risks or avoid them altogether.'

She added: 'Free stop smoking services are also funded by the county council for anyone who wants help and support to quit. People who use the county's stop smoking services are four times more likely to successfully kick the habit than if they used willpower alone.

"The service is free and can be accessed by telephoning 01900-324222, texting QUIT to 82540 or through a local participating pharmacy."

Dr Rebecca Wagstaff, Cumbria County Council’s Acting Director of Public Health, said: “It’s a strange fact, but when we think about our health, more often than not we conjure up images of illness, hospitals, and the doctors and nurses who work in them.

“In actual fact, 80 per cent of what makes our lives longer and healthier happens well away from hospitals and other health services.

“Whether we smoke, drink to excess, eat too much, exercise too little and other lifestyle factors account for 40 per cent of our overall health.'

“The condition of the home we live in the job we do, our income and other parts of our life make up the rest.'

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