Rich? You’ll live 17 years longer in Westminster

But poorer residents will only make it to 75 as Westminster has the largest gap in life expectancy in the country

THE largest gap in life expectancy in the country is in Westminster – with some men living almost 17 years longer than others depending on their postcode.

Health inequalities among the borough’s population vary widely between wards.

Residents in the borough’s more deprived areas, such as Church Street and Harrow Road, live to 75 years on average, while those in Knightsbridge and Belgravia reach 92.

The gap has grown from less than 14 years in 2002 to its current peak of 17 years. The NHS suggests it is a case of the richer living longer rather than the poorer living shorter lives.

The figures, revealed in a new government-commissioned report, have led to criticism of the council and the borough’s health services for not providing enough focus for residents most in need.

Church Street councillor Barbara Grahame said: “I think it’s shocking that this is the case with a council that prides itself on being a world-class leader. It’s shameful.

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“We have had funding cuts to all the organisations which work so hard and so effectively with residents in Church Street. For example, the neighbourhood centre, whose particular role was to make contact with hard-to-reach people whose health needs were highest, has had its funding cut.

“This sort of statistic should be a wake-up call to the council.”

Despite such a large inequality between Westminster residents, the borough has one of the highest overall life expectancies. Men are expected to reach 84 and women 89 compared to the country-wide averages of 78 and 82 respectively.

The figures were revealed on the first anniversary of the Marmot Review, a report highlighting the challenges facing local authorities in reducing health inequalities.

North Westminster Labour MP Karen Buck said: “Clearly this is inequality at its most stark because there’s nothing about Church Street or Harrow Road which makes people sicker than in Knightsbridge. It’s entirely because people living in, for example, Church Street start off life poorer and have worse life chances at almost every point.

“I don’t think any decent and civilised society should accept as a matter of fact a gap in life expectancy which is this great and so linked to economic circumstances.”

NHS Westminster’s director of public health Dr Helen Walters says the NHS and the council are working together on a number of different programmes to alleviate the gap.

“We are well aware of the inequalities in Westminster so it’s not a surprise for us,” she said.

“We are a peculiar place in the fact that we have extremes of wealth and poverty and not a lot in between, which results in huge health inequalities.

“One of the reasons it’s so high is that we have people who live for an extremely long time. The highest life expectancies are some of the highest in the country so our average life expectancy is kept high because of that.

“We are never going to make the whole of Westminster into Belgravia but it doesn’t mean that we can’t help the people in the extremes.

“We are doing a lot to try to counter it. The council and NHS Westminster are working together and we have a shared inequality strategy which was launched in 2009.”