Liver disease an ‘illness of inequality’ as Manchester death rates reveal shocking north-south divide

Liver disease killed more than 350 people in Manchester last year as Public Health England revealed the number of a deaths rose by 40% across the UK over the last 12 years.

Studies uncovered a worrying north-south divide, as last year more than six times as many people died due to liver disease in Manchester than they did in Maidenhead and Windsor.

Liver disease has been described as an ‘illness of inequality’ with those in deprived areas more likely to suffer from the illness.

In Manchester last year 352 people under the age of 75 died due to liver disease, whereas just 58 lives were taken by the illness in The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.  

Professor Julia Verne, Lead for Liver Disease at Public Health England, said: “Liver disease is a public health priority because young lives are being needlessly lost.

“All the preventable causes are on the rise, but alcohol accounts for 37% of liver disease deaths.

“We must do more to raise awareness, nationally and locally, and this is why it is so important for the public and health professionals to understand their local picture.”

The extending of pub opening hours and higher levels of alcohol consumption are directly linked to the ‘rapid and shocking’ increase in death rates, Professor Verne, believes.

Liver disease is the only major cause of death which is on the increase in England, while it is decreasing everywhere else in Europe.

The deadly disease is preventable and 90% of cases are directly caused by alcohol abuse, obesity and Hepatitis B and C.

People die from liver disease at a young age, with 90% of those who die aged below 70 years old.

And more than one in ten who die in their 40’s are killed by the illness. Also, men are twice as likely to be diagnosed as women.

Andrew Langford, Chief Executive of The British Liver Trust, said: “The British Liver Trust is delighted with the level of detail provided within these profiles.

“They provide invaluable evidence as to how local authorities, CCGs, public health professionals and the NHS can improve upon and increase prevention, early diagnosis and more timely care and treatment.

“These profiles, which were urgently needed, will begin to address the devastating rise of poor liver health throughout the country and reduce unnecessary deaths of increasingly younger people from liver disease.”

Currently, liver disease is the fifth ‘big killer’ in England and Wales, after heart disease, cancer, strokes and respiratory disease.

Today Public Health England has published the Liver Disease Profiles for local authorities in England.

It is hoped these will support the work of Health and Wellbeing Boards and Joint Strategic Health Needs Assessments by providing vital information about liver disease prevalence in individual areas.

Dr Verne said: “Liver disease develops silently and obvious signs and symptoms may only appear when changes are irreversible, therefore the identification of people with risk factors for liver disease in primary care is a critical first step in the pathway.”

Image courtesy of Sebastian Surendarm, with thanks.

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