MEN living in the most deprived areas of Edinburgh and the Lothians will die on average 11 years earlier than those in more affluent parts, while women can expect to live 7.5 years less.
A damning Audit Scotland investigation concludes that those living in the likes of Murrayfield and the Grange will enjoy a significantly healthier and longer life than those in Pilton and Craigmillar.
The report said it was unclear how much money NHS boards and councils were spending on the issue - and what it was being spent on. National strategies which aim to reduce health inequalities have so far shown limited evidence of impact.
But life expectancy in the Capital is still higher than the Scottish average. However, more work is needed to tackle health inequalities across Scotland, a new report warned today.
In the City overall area, life expectancy for men is 75.9 years and 80.9 years for women, compared to national averages of 74.5 and 79.5 years.
Just under 12 per cent of the city’s population is income deprived, compared to a national average of 15.1 per cent. Auditor General for Scotland, Caroline Gardner, said that health inequalities were “long-standing and entrenched” throughout the country. She added: “Resources should be better targeted at those who require them most.”
People in deprived areas also have higher rates of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, drug and alcohol misuse and poor mental health.
The Scottish Government takes account of deprivation when allocating funds to NHS boards and councils but it is not clear how, at local level, resources are targeted to the areas with the greatest need.
Distribution of primary care services, such as GPs, across Scotland does not fully reflect the higher levels of ill health and wider needs found in deprived areas, or the need for more preventative healthcare,
East Lothian MSP Iain Gray, convener of Holyrood’s Public Audit Committee, said: “Audit Scotland has said today that the distribution of primary care services does not always reflect the areas of greatest need, and these are issues that the Government must look at carefully if we are to reduce health inequality in Scotland.
Peter Johnston, health and well-being spokesman for Cosla, the national association of Scottish councils, said local authorities need to make sure that all agencies work together within community planning partnerships to co-ordinate services and plan investment decisions.
“We look forward to the day that our citizens have a more equal prospect of living healthy and fulfilling lives.”
Labour’s Jackie Baillie said the report shows that “the SNP is failing Scotland’s poorest and most deprived”.
She said: “Everyone knows that our health inequalities are immense but this report shows that, five years into government, the SNP’s health programmes lack focus, show few outcomes. While the inequalities remain, whole communities of Scotland continue to suffer from poorer health and lower life expectancies. In a 21st-century Scotland, it is a disgrace that this continues to be the case.”
Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “We hear great celebrations about how life expectancy in general has increased in recent decades. But this radical gulf between rich and poor has not improved, and is a shameful indictment but individuals, regardless of their background, also have to take responsibility for their own health. So while the authorities can take some responsibility for this problem, we cannot lay the blame squarely at their door.”
Dr Alan McDevitt, chairman of the British Medical Association’s Scottish general practitioners committee, said: “It can be difficult for patients in the most deprived communities to access health services and it is important that we use the unique relationship that GPs have with their patients and in their communities to target healthcare to those who need it most.”