More than 6,000 deaths in the North East could have been avoided by better healthcare, new figures show.
The Government statistics on avoidable mortality show the region has the highest proportion of deaths which could have been prevented by “timely and effective healthcare or public health interventions”.
Conditions which are classed as “avoidable” deaths include tuberculosis, hepatitis C, HIV/AIDS and certain types of heart disease.
Road accidents, suicides and deaths during surgery can also come under that criteria.
Figures for avoidable deaths have been falling steadily but the North East has seen a small rise in the number of deaths classed as “avoidable”.
In 2011, the latest year to be studied, there were thought to be 4,002 such deaths in men in the North East and 2,759 among women.
Avoidable deaths include those that could have been prevented through medical care and those attributable to diseases that could have been stopped through public health measures – for instance, if someone dies from measles or lung cancer.
A spokesman for Public Health England said: “The North East has had historically poor health for generations, partly as a legacy of our history of heavy industry and partly because of lifestyle choices.
“Things are getting better though – in particular, significantly reduced deaths from heart disease thanks to earlier and improved treatments.
“These latest figures serve as a timely reminder of the hard work that lies ahead in preventing more premature deaths.”
The North East is the only area that may have seen a rise in avoidable death rates year on year – up 0.2% for men and 1.5% for women – however both of these are within confidence levels so there is a chance this is just down to the sample used to come up with the figures.
Overall the rate for men has dropped 29.5% in 10 years and 22.6% for women in 10 years.
Lord Jeremy Beecham – a member of Labour’s shadow health team – said: “Any avoidable death is of course deplorable and the Government has to do more to address the issue.
“We do need to improve the public health system and now that the local authority is coming together with public health bodies it should help.”
Nationally the number of avoidable deaths has declined but still accounts for almost a quarter of fatalities, figures suggest.
Deaths from potentially avoidable causes accounted for 26% of deaths in 2001, but a decade on the proportion had fallen to 24%, the ONS said.
This means that 113,910 out of 484,367 deaths in England and Wales could potentially have been avoided.
The ONS said men are more likely to die from avoidable causes, at about 29% compared with 18% for women.
A spokesman said ischaemic heart disease was the leading cause of avoidable deaths, accounting for 18% in 2011.