Stark poverty divide in Portsmouth laid bare as data shows people can live eight years longer in different postcodes
A STARK poverty divide in Portsmouth has been revealed as people can live up to eight years longer in different postcodes.
Men and women in the most deprived parts of the city have a life expectancy several years shorter than elsewhere in Portsmouth.
A lack of funding for health and social care, access to GPs, food and housing poverty, and economic inequality have all been blamed for the disparity.
A Lancet Public Health study calculated average life expectancy in 6,791 communities across the UK from 2002 to 2019.
Places were split by Middle Super Output Area (MSOA), geographic locations containing at least 5,000 people.
They show that some neighbouring areas in Portsmouth – have vastly different life expectancies.
For example, in Fratton West and Portsea, the average life expectancy for men in 2019 was 74.41 years of age, and 77.59 for women.
But only a stones throw away in the Southsea Haslemere Road area, the average for men is 79.41, and 84.22 for women.
That is a five and eight-year age gap respectively, split only by a few streets.
These variations are even more pronounced in other communities.
A few miles down the road, in the Drayton and Farlington, men live up to eight years longer than in Fratton West and Portsea, 82.57, and there is just under an eight year difference for women, 85.28 years old.
Life expectancy data in Portsmouth has been tracked by Portsmouth City Council for years.
In line with the national trend, there are marked differences in life expectancy between the most and least deprived areas of the city.
Helen Atkinson, director of Public Health Portsmouth City Council,said Portsmouth is in line with the national trend.
She pointed to council figures, which show the gap in life expectancy for men and women born in Portsmouth compared to England were 1.4 and 1.5 years respectively between 2017 and 2019.
Referring to those statistics, Ms Atkinson said: ‘For many years, we've seen a difference in life expectancy between the most and least deprived parts of the country and in Portsmouth.
‘It is likely the pandemic has widened the gap further, as we have seen our most vulnerable residents in more deprived communities more impacted by Covid-19 over the last 20 months.
‘Our mission as a council is to support the city to recover following the pandemic, by working with our partners and communities to tackle health, social and economic inequalities, and the underlying causes of ill-health.
‘Our Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2021 will outlined next month.’
Public Health Watch Portsmouth is a part of this strategy and has been analysing the causes of health problems and early death.
Roger Batterbury, chairperson of Healthwatch Portsmouth,said the quality of housing, affordability of heating, long term debt, lower educational attainment and access to employment were the main causes.
He said: ‘There are generations of families who have had poor health outcomes resulting in years of life lost.
‘A new strategy is being worked on and we have used residents’ feedback to highlight these areas of concern.
‘HWP has called for more resources in these areas of deprivation including access to relevant and clear information on health services that are available locally.
‘The city council, the CCG and the health providers are all aware of this information and are drawing up plans to help support all residents, so they can access services which give them choice and control over their lives.
Charles Dickens ward is in the Fratton West and Portsea area, one of the areas with the lowest average life expectancy.
Independent councillor for Charles Dickens, Claire Udy, said the overarching theme for poverty was wealth.
She said: ‘I don’t believe in trickle-down economics but poverty does that.
‘Schools aren't as good in poverty stricken places, people are unable to work and they have no life chances.
‘It's incredibly hard to break a cycle of poverty when benefits are being cut to the bone.
‘Local people are left picking up the pieces, and it is a crime that the reward for having more money is to live longer.’
Fellow Charles Dickens councillor Kirsty Mellor thinks the causes for social deprivation are leading to poorer residential healthcare.
She said: ‘Our primary care staff care about the health and wellbeing of their patients, however they are struggling to manage the demand caused by a lack of funding and a shortage of GP's
‘Having general practice provision rooted in communities such as Charles Dickens plays an essential role in preventing health inequality and promotes better health outcomes for the residents.
‘To eradicate health inequality and to increase the life expectancy of the people of Portsmouth, we must invest in family medicine.’
Various charitable organisations have had to step in and support those struggling in poverty.
One of these registered charity’s is Hive Portsmouth, which works in tandem with Portsmouth City Council and NHS Portsmouth Clinical Commissioning group.
During the first lockdown, Hive volunteers have provided more than £450k worth of labour and continue to support poverty stricken communities.
Father Bob White, vicar of Fratton’s St Mary’s church, heads the Hive Portsmouth board and said local community projects are necessary to solve people’s problems and change people’s perceptions of poverty.
He said: ‘We look at how we need to address the whole community and the whole person, to actually get to know them, build a relationship, and help them address some of the other issues that may be affecting them.
‘In our experience over the last 18 months, we are most effective as individual community groups and statutory partners when we work together.
‘We’re trying to create a cultural change, which is about raising awareness of the challenges struggling groups are facing, and then giving them the necessary support and resources.’
‘Then, it’s about tackling the underlying causes of poverty and giving people the support they need to make appropriate life choices.’
Another MSOA shown to have lower age of deaths is Leigh Park.
The average life expectancy for men in 2019 was 79.88, and 77.98 for women, higher than some areas but lower than other MSOA’s in Havant such as Bedhampton and Hayling West and North.
The 13ANK Community interest company have been supporting overlooked communities in Leigh Park through food banks, donation hubs, home deliveries and youth clubs.
Director, Darren McKenna, said funding for education is high enough, because the area hits certain poverty indicators, but youth and mental health services are drastically overlooked.
He said: ‘It would be remiss of me to say that education is underfunded, but there is a systemic lack of funding in non-educational support for lower income families and areas.
‘A lot of mental health charities are getting good money but they are not out on the streets and dealing with people with mental health issues.
‘I know that because people are coming to us and saying the support isn’t out there.’
What MPs say
Portsmouth South MP, Stephen Morgan, said: ‘Where you are born, or where you live, shouldn’t determine your life chances.
‘These latest life expectancy figures expose the terrible effects of 11 years of austerity on our communities imposed by the government.
‘Even before the pandemic shone a spotlight on inequality, the UK has been falling far behind other countries.
‘It is an appalling sign of the Government’s failure to improve people’s life chances, as years of underfunding in health and social care have taken their toll.’
Talking about the eight-year gap in life expectancy in parts of the city, Portsmouth North MP, Penny Mordaunt,said: ‘Such disparity is shocking, but this is not a new issue and progress is being made.
‘Historically, there has been a marked difference in life expectancy between places in my constituency and places like Fareham.
‘Things have been improving but have now plateaued, and we have to keep progressing despite the Covid-19 backlog.
‘Healthcare funding is important and improving clinical outcomes in each therapy area is critical.
‘While the city is now above average in many indicators of deprivation, it's health outcomes are not, so this is a priority for me.
‘This is what the levelling-up agenda is all about.’