'Time and a lot of investment' needed in Peterborough healthcare as survey rates city 'unhealthiest place in Britain'

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Peterborough rated 307th and last for health in statistics related to the health of its population.

The Chair of independent healthcare champions Healthwatch Peterborough has called for more time and money to be invested in the city’s healthcare system after a survey ranked Peterborough as the ‘unhealthiest place in Britain.

The blood testing company Blue Horizon drew together data released by the office for national statistics and analysed metrics from 12 key areas: air quality, the number of smokers, hospital admissions due to alcohol, cancer patients, people with diabetes, drug misuse, percentage of people eating five a day, people with high blood pressure, people with kidney or liver disease (self reported), mental health conditions (self-reported), people with an ‘overweight BMI’, percentage of people who are ‘physically active.’

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Former head of Vivacity Stewart Francis is now the chair of Healthwatch Peterborough.Former head of Vivacity Stewart Francis is now the chair of Healthwatch Peterborough.
Former head of Vivacity Stewart Francis is now the chair of Healthwatch Peterborough.

Each was given a score up to 100 and combined together with the other 11 to provide a final score out of 100 for the area.

Out of 307 areas, Peterborough was ranked the lowest with a score of 40, Gosport in Hampshire rated 306th with a score of 50.90.

The city has a 28% cancer self-report rate, as well as 38.50% for diabetes and 59.60% for mental health conditions.

Healthwatch Peterborough Chair Stewart Francis said he was not surprised to see such inequalities in the area.

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He said: “This is not surprising and is helpful in focusing minds because we have known for a long time that life expectancy is lower than the national average and lower than anywhere else in Cambridgeshire. The difference are stark across the county.

"When I was Chair of the Strategic Health Authority in 2005, we mapped health inequalities across the region. The dial has not shifted whatsoever in Peterborough. It remains an outlier where health inequalities are prevalent.

“The difference now is that there is serious work going onto address that. There is no silver bullet to suddenly correct this. It takes time and a lot of investment in education, housing and primary care. Those are the areas that are going to improve statistics like this.

“When you look at health inequalities, it all starts at birth, with housing, education through life. A good start to life is a determinant of a healthy lifestyle.

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“You have to look in depth at these figures while also looking at the work being done across an integrated care system by the NHS and local authorities working together to try and iron out these inequalities.”

One of the areas which Peterborough rated particularly poorly in was the percentage of people with self-reported kidney and liver diseases.

Kidney Research UK, which is based in Peterborough, has predicted that there could be as many as 400,000 more people in the UK living with kidney disease by 2033.

Currently, around 125 in Peterborough are on dialysis but the charity predicts this to rise as high as 600 by 2033.

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Alison Railton, head of policy and external affairs at Kidney Research UK, said: “Whilst the kidney-specific statistics from this index don’t tally with the geographical picture of kidney disease indicated by NHS data, we do feel the importance placed upon kidney disease as an indicator of general health is extremely valid, as reflected in our recent report showing that kidney disease is a public health emergency.

"These statistics paint a bleak picture. Our own experts predict a worrying surge of people living with kidney disease across the UK, including in Peterborough.

"“Early detection and subsequent interventions can help people with kidney disease to live well, without dialysis or transplantation, for longer.

"That’s why we’re advocating for increased rates of screening amongst high risk patients, better access to effective treatments and targeted awareness campaigns for NHS staff and patients.”

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Among the those also concerned by Peterborough’s tag as the “unhealthiest place in Britain” is the St George's Hydrotherapy Users Group; who are still without a home following the closure of the city’s hydrotherapy pool in 2022.

Chair Karen Oldale commented: “The ranking of Peterborough as the least healthy city in Britain is incredibly alarming and concerning.

"'Health is wealth’ and everyone needs to work together to redress this as soon as possible. This must include listening to residents’ needs.

“Research has subsequently shown that the loss of hydrotherapy at St George’s has sadly had a very negative impact on the physical health and mental wellbeing of its former users.

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"As just one example, after losing access to the pool one of our users became bed-bound and as consequence developed diabetes. Others, who were previously using the pool to self-manage their pain, are now on hospital waiting lists for operations.

“Based on our Social Return on Investment, we have calculated the closure will have now cost the city £8,779,781 in lost value - much of it health.

“With so many of the city’s residents evidently suffering from poorer health, pools (warmer hydrotherapy and cooler swimming) where people can exercise in a pain-free way supported by water, have never been more needed.”

Stewart Francis did, however, offer some comfort to residents and urged many not to jump to too severe conclusions about the data.

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He added: “We shouldn’t forget that there are more GP appointments being attended at GP surgeries than there have ever been. There are more operations at Peterborough City Hospital than before Covid.

“These things are changing. Just addressing one specific area would change the dial of whether Peterborough is last of fourth last and if it’s fourth last, then the Daily Mail don’t have their story.

“It’s not something residents should read and think ‘oh I need to move.’ There is nothing out there coming to get you be living in Peterborough.”