DEPRIVATION is contributing to more people dying of cancer and other diseases in St Helens, a new report has claimed.

Cancer is the biggest cause of death in St Helens for all ages, accounting for 25 per cent of all deaths in 2017.

Cardiovascular diseases are the second biggest cause of death, accounting for 24 per cent of all deaths and 21 per cent of premature deaths (under 75).

The borough’s mortality rates have been revealed in a joint report from St Helens Council, St Helens CCG and St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, which was discussed this week by the People’s Board.

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According to the data, 308 people per 100,000 died prematurely from cancer in Parr between 2015 to 2017, double the lowest ward of Rainford (154).

Parr had the most people die of lung cancer, with 120 deaths per 100,000, around three times more than the lowest ward, Rainford (42).

The report states that rates for all cancers show a link between increased deprivation and increased early cancer deaths.

It found that smoking, which accounts for over half of the health inequalities between social groups in England, is highest in the two most deprived areas, Parr (28 per cent) and Town Centre (33 per cent), based on Merseyside Fire and Rescue data.

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Between 2015 and 2017, Town Centre had the highest rate of early deaths due to respiratory diseases for males (141.2 per 100,000), more than six times higher than Rainhill (21).

Parr had the highest rate for females (181.5 per 100,000), eight times higher than the lowest rate in Rainford (23.6).

Areas of lower deprivation such as Rainford, Eccleston and Billinge had the lowest rates of respiratory deaths.

Cardiovascular disease mortality rates in Town Centre and Parr wards are also nearly four times higher than in Rainford.

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Michelle Wood, head of housing and health at Torus, told members of the People’s Board the figures showed a “massive inequality”.

“We’ve got 28 per cent of people estimated to be smoking in Parr,” she said.

“And that’s a lifestyle issue, but that lifestyle issue could be driven by those people’s circumstances.

“The poverty, their jobs, their culture – there’s a whole raft of things behind these statistics that we need to influence.”

Tobacco use is estimated to cost the St Helens economy £48.8 million per year, according to the report.

The costs include costs to local businesses of £31 million in loss of productivity, £3 million due to sickness absence and £13 million due to early deaths.

In addition, smoking costs the NHS in St Helens £7.2 million annually and over £4.1 million is spent on social care because of smoking.

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Across St Helens, the respiratory disease mortality rate for under 75s between 2015 to 2017 is 58.4 per 100,000 –  significantly higher than both North West average (45.5) and England (33.8).

Cllr Derek Long, leader of the council, said fundamentally, what lies behind the data is “health inequality”.

The West Park councillor challenged the People’s Board to return to the next meeting with responses to the issues highlighted in the report.

Cllr Long said: “We need to be focused on this data and retain the ability to be shocked because frankly, some of this data is indeed shocking.”

Professor Sarah O’Brien, the council’s strategic director of people’s services and clinical accountable officer for St Helens CCG, suggested targeting the individual areas where inequality is at its starkest, rather than working on an overarching strategy.