The interim joint director of public health in the Borders says “every effort” is required to increase the uptake of free bowel screening.
In his annual report, Dr Tim Patterson claims the screening programme for people aged 50 to 74 is “one of the most effective available” and saves an estimated seven lives a year in the region through the early detection of cancer.
But he notes eligible men have a lower uptake than women, with just 57% taking the test compared to 64.5% for females. “The uptake is even lower in deprived groups… and every effort needs to be made to increase it,” states Dr Patterson who is jointly employed by Scottish Borders Council and NHS Borders.
The issues of deprivation and health inequality in the region are recurring themes in his report which will be presented to councillors today.
Dr Patterson says the differences in life expectancy between people living in the least and most deprived areas of the region are reflected in deaths from coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer and respiratory disease.
He stresses that addressing that inequality is a “key challenge” for the council, NHS Borders and partner organisations.
“We need to recognise people who are disadvantaged have higher health needs and the level and intensity of service provision must reflect that,” he states.
The report confirms the number of Borders residents aged 65-74 will increase by 32% by 2032 and the number aged over 75 will rocket by 75% over the same period. By the age of 65, nearly two thirds of Borderers will have developed a long-term condition and 75% of people aged 75-84 will have two or more such conditions.
The report also notes that the Borders has a higher rate of emergency hospitalisations than the rest of Scotland, with the highest rate of admissions among the over 75s.
“As our population ages, it is vital that maintaining and improving physical, mental, social and economic wellbeing of older adults is a priority,” writes Dr Patterson.
In a section on common diseases spanning all age groups, he says cases of diabetes in the Borders were increasing year on year. “The excess healthcare costs attributable to diabetes are substantial and pose a significant clinical and public health challenge.
“This burden is an important consideration for decision-makers, particularly given increasing concern over the sustainability of the healthcare system.”