A report by Public Health Scotland (PHS) has highlighted the growing inequalities in health across Scotland during the past decade. The SNP, now led by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, has been in power north of the border since forming a minority Government in 2007.
The study says life expectancy for people in Scotland is “relatively poor” and has not improved since 2012.
The report adds: “Health inequalities are wide and have worsened over the last ten years.”
The current life expectancy for people in Scotland is 79-years-old – the lowest in Western Europe and two years below England.
Between 2011 and 2016, the SNP formed a majority Government in Scotland and the report found between 2015-2017 life expectancy fell for the first time since World War Two.
The PHS report says: “Current evidence has shown that the rate of improvement in life expectancy and mortality has experienced a slow-down since around 2012, such that mortality improvements across all age-groups are less than they were prior to 2012.
“In particular, life expectancy took an unprecedented drop in 2015–17, which is the first time this has happened since the Second World War.”
In 2008 Ms Sturgeon, the then health secretary, made a pledge to narrow the health gap in Scotland, she said: “We have made tackling health inequalities our priority.”
But the report found Scotland has the widest health inequality across Western Europe with the poorest areas most affected.
The PHS report adds: “We know that socioeconomic inequalities in health strongly affect overall population health, and Scotland has both the widest socioeconomic inequalities in health and the worst overall population health in Western Europe.
“Slow-down in life expectancy gains have also exhibited as inequalities in mortality, hitting those living in the most deprived areas of Scotland the hardest.”
The study references a growing trend of drug-related deaths in people of working age and the growing number of cases on dementia in the elderly as a contributing factor.
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The Scottish public also fear their own personal health is not as good as it was a decade ago, the report cites a 2017 Scottish Health Survey which indicates 73 percent of people feel their general health is either good or very good, a drop of four percent in a ten-year period.
The report was produced prior to the March 2020 COVID-19 outbreak and found the population in Scotland is set to increase around 200,000 in the next eight years to 5.6 million.
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Donald Cameron took aim at the SNP following the release of the report.
He said: “This is a pretty damning indictment of the SNP Government’s performance in public health, coming as it does from the Government’s own agency set up to monitor progress.
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“The SNP has run our health services for the last 13 years so it’s highly embarrassing for them that the first strategic report from this government agency is so critical, especially when it details how life expectancy has not improved since 2012.
“The fact that health inequalities have worsened over the last decade shows the major challenges that already existed before the pandemic – issues which the SNP have consistently failed to address.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Tackling health inequalities remains a major concern for governments and communities all around the world.
“Scotland faces the same challenge as many other countries.”