People in the North enjoy good health for less time than their southern counterparts, new figures have revealed.
The length of time people can expect to live free from a chronic illness or disability is lowest in the North East compared to elsewhere in the country, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has shown.
Disability-free life expectancy at birth is 60.5 for males in the region and for females it is 60.6, while in the South East it is as high as 66.2 for males and 67.3 for females.
MPs have hit out at the Government for failing to do more to protect the health and well-being of the those in the region.
Labour Easington MP Grahame Morris, a health select committee member, said: “These are another set of disturbing statistics highlighting the health inequalities that so disadvantage our region.
“Targeted interventions are required from Government and the application of resources to address these unequal health outcomes. It is further confirmation of the North-South divide in health.
“I believe there is a link to our region’s industrial past. Many chronic conditions such as mesothelioma emphysema and chronic obstructive airways disease take many years to develop and are linked to working in heavy industries such as shipbuilding, coal mining and the chemicals industry that were prevalent in the North East.
“There is also a public health dimension and a strong case for early intervention to prevent chronic conditions developing downstream in later life.
“It is a vindication of the successful campaign in the region to resist Government attempts to alter health funding allocations. The Government sought to alter the funding formula away from health inequalities and transfer resources from deprived areas of the North East perversely to benefit more affluent areas in the South East where people enjoy better health and live longer.”
The ONS figures reveal that between 2008 and 2010, County Durham was the worst performing area in the North East in terms of disability-free life expectancy at birth; for males it was 57.7 years and for females it is 57.6.
This was closely followed by Sunderland with males at 58.1 and females at 58.5. In Gateshead it was 58.4 for males and 60.8 for females.
Director of Public Health for Gateshead, Carole Wood said: “Gateshead residents are becoming ill before they reach retirement age. Tackling the causes of preventable ill health is very much the focus of our health programmes.
“We are trying to improve health by supporting people to make healthy lifestyle choices, change their behaviour and recognise symptoms earlier but we also have wider ambitions to improve everyday living environments, help people into employment and improve mental health. These can be things that influence physical health significantly.”
Richmond upon Thames was the best performing local authority in terms of disability-free life expectancy at birth; for males it was 70.3 years and for females 71.8 years.
A Department of Health spokesperson said: “We have introduced legal duties which make sure that health inequalities are always taken into account when NHS services are planned and provided for - furthermore, NHS England will consider health inequalities when allocating funding to local areas.
“In addition, local authorities have been given a £5.4bn budget over two years to help tackle public health issues such as smoking and obesity. It is vital that they make sure services are available to support local people to live more healthily for longer.”