Lincoln is the crack cocaine and heroin capital of England, with high levels of deprivation, ill health and a lower than average life expectancy, a report has claimed.
Figures released by Public Health England have suggested that 1,631 people are taking the Class A drugs in Lincoln, more as a percentage of the population than anywhere else in the country.
For every 1,000 people in the city, 25 are estimated to be using the illegal substances, which is well above the national average of 8.4.
Ann Goodwin, Deputy Director for Health, Wellbeing and Workforce Development at Public Health East Midlands, said the figures were “estimates” and were used to inform the services that are required by local authorities.
She said: “Drug users are hidden in the community so we can’t use normal survey methods which means we rely on information from drug treatment service providers, police, prisons and probation services.
“The findings are put into a statistical modelling tool which comes up with a prevalence rate for the county.
“We then look at the actual data in each local authority of those attending drug treatment groups and apportion it according to the data from the models.”
The figures have been disputed by Lincolnshire Police who have said that they “cannot necessarily be taken as an absolute statement of fact.”
Chief Superintendent Stuart Morrison said: “The figures from Public Health England have come as a surprise to us, as they evidently have to agencies we routinely work with in relation to tackling substance misuse, because in our experience we don’t have any more of an issue here in Lincoln than elsewhere.
“I don’t seek to deny that of course we do have users of narcotics in the county and experience drug-related problems as a consequence but we are and remain committed to tackling the supply and sale of drugs and will take action against anyone breaking the law in relation to that.
“We also work closely with partner and treatment agencies to ensure that people who need help and are open to it get the assistance they need. Often lifestyle and health are a factor in these types of issues and a number of organisations work hard every day to offer help to those who need it.”
The picture for adult health in the city is also bleak according to the report, with nearly one in four adults (24.3%) in Lincoln classed as obese.
Stays in hospital through alcohol related abuse and self-harm are higher than the national average, with 734 and 287.9 per 100,000 of the population admitted for treatment respectively.
Deaths caused or linked to smoking are also considerably higher in Lincoln than nationally.
However, on a more positive note, Lincoln has a lower rate for cases of recorded diabetes and incidences of tuberculosis than the national average.
Sarah Fletcher, CEO of Healthwatch Lincolnshire, said: “The published statistics from Public Health do pose some very serious challenges to our health and care economy.
“The big messages are that if we want to live longer we need to take more responsibility for our own health and wellbeing.
“For some, this is not so easy due to long term health conditions, physical or learning disabilities or pattern of their lifestyle.
“One of the first steps to take could well be to have an NHS Health Check which is your chance to get your free mid-life MOT which just might help you get your health back on track. Another step might be to seek help through many of the self-help groups offered by local voluntary and community groups.
“Our hospitals and health service cannot tackle this alone. In order for them to reach out to those most in need of support they will have to work closely with the voluntary and community and private sectors to offer packages of support for individuals to help them manage their short term health needs and long term lifestyle choices.”
These stats partly contribute to Lincoln’s life expectancy lagging behind many parts of the UK – on average men can be expected to live until 77 and a half, with women lasting five years more.
By contrast, the average life expectancy for men in England is 79.4 and 83.1 for women.
Where you live in Lincoln has a significant bearing on your life expectancy, the report claims.
Life expectancy is 8.7 years lower for men and 7.7 years lower for women in the most deprived areas of the city than in the least deprived areas.
The report also estimates that 3,900 children under the age of 16 are living in poverty in the city.
The charts below outline Lincoln’s electoral wards by deprivation and the life expectancy inequalities in full.
Councillor Rosanne Kirk, Portfolio Holder for Social Inclusion and Community Cohesion at City of Lincoln Council, said that it was “shocking” that some parts of the city had a significantly lower life expectancy than other areas.
She said: “We’ve adopted an anti-poverty strategy that we and many partners in the city are working on to try to address the effects of poverty and included in that is how we break the link between poor health and poverty.
“Our current Helping Hands campaign, where advice cards are being distributed containing information of places where people can get money, benefit, debt and savings advice is one of the projects supporting this aim. GP surgeries in the city are giving them to patients and some pharmacies are putting them into prescription medicine bags.
“We are also a partner in the ‘Making Lincoln Living Wage’ campaign, which is encouraging businesses and organisations to pay their staff the Living Wage as better wages mean that people have more money to cope with today’s costs of living.
“There is still work to be done and we and our partners are committed to doing all we can to tackle poverty in the city and the affect it has on people’s everyday lives so that growth in the city benefits all and no-one is left behind.”