Scotland tops UK's unavoidable death rate list

Politicians have expressed concern at Scotland's 'shamefully high' avoidable death rate after new analysis showed it is the highest in the UK.

Poverty is a primary cause of early death
Poverty is a primary cause of early death

Research conducted by the BBC found that Scotland’s avoidable death rate is rising with experts blaming poverty, drinking, smoking and poor diet for the increase.

According to the most recent figures, Scotland’s avoidable death rate was 301 deaths per 100,000 people in 2016 compared with 287 in 2014.

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Scotland’s rate was greater than other UK countries with the figure for England standing at 218 per 100,000.

In Wales it was 257 per 100,000 and in Northern Ireland it stood at 241 per 100,000 in 2016.

Although Scotland has the highest rate overall as a nation, the worst rates in the UK could be found in the most deprived parts of Belfast where it was as high as 517 per 100,000 people.

Avoidable deaths are defined as those of people under the age of 75 from causes which can be overcome in the presence of “timely and effective healthcare” or “public health interventions”.

Included in the list are deaths from conditions such as heart disease, some cancers, respiratory diseases and type 2 diabetes - where lifestyle and environment may have contributed.

The list includes those that could have been prevented such as HIV/Aids, accidental and self-inflicted injuries, rubella and various infections and drug use disorders.

The Scottish rate of 301 per 100,000 avoidable deaths suggests almost 16,000 men and women died before their time north of the border.

The BBC research, based on data from the Office of National Statistics, the National Records of Scotland and Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, found the rate was higher for men (376) than for women (232). North Ayrshire had the highest rate (373) and Shetland the lowest (197).

Dr Andrew Fraser, of NHS Health Scotland, said: “We know that people in poorer areas experience more harm from alcohol, tobacco and fast food than those in more affluent areas. Part of the reason for this is that it is easier to access the things that harm our health in those areas.”

Alison Johnstone MSP, the Scottish Greens’ health spokesperson, said: “Tackling such a shamefully high avoidable death rate must go beyond measures taken by the NHS.All parties have a duty to be more forensic in their analysis of what’s happening in more deprived communities.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said it was committed to tackling poverty, smoking and obesity.