Burnfoot takes pounding in health report

AN NHS report has branded the Burnfoot area as “significantly worse” than the national average on a series of key health and social issues.

The shock results published as part of a health and wellbeing report from information gathered last year, not only shows the Burnfoot area as having the worst results in the town - but having failed 21 out of 59 indicators on topics ranging from ill-health to behaviour, it is ranked alongside Langlee as one of the poorest performing zones in the Borders.

Compared to the rest of the town, Burnfoot showed the highest figures for hospitalisation in relation to alcohol, drugs, health and assault, as well as a low attendance at secondary school from young people in the area. And nine per cent of its adults claim incapacity benefit or disability allowance, compared with the average of 5.6 per cent. It was also noted that people in Burnfoot are expected to live a year less, while people in Newcastleton can expect to live two to three years longer.

However, it’s not all bad news for Burnfoot, with the crime rate only slightly above the national average – and actually higher in the central zone of Hawick. And a shocking statistic is shared by both the West End and Burnfoot, with the number of women who smoke during pregnancy being above the national average. The West End also only tails slightly behind Burnfoot in the level of population living within a derelict site, being higher than the rest of the country. And although admitting Burnfoot may have its problems, local officials have stressed that the report does not represent the whole community.

Richard Knight, chairman of Burnfoot Community Council, said: “Since Burnfoot is the largest housing estate in the Borders it is no surprise there are a few issues. A high number of unemployed is not just a local one, and we all know this means it has a knock-on effect into the health and wellbeing of families. But I must stress these issues are being addressed with a lot of great work being done by Burnfoot Community Council, Community Learning and Development and Healthy Living Network in the form of Burnfoot Community Futures.”

Councillor Stuart Marshall commented: “Having been brought up in Burnfoot myself and knowing the folk as well as I do, they will not be rattled by these statistics. After all they can boast having an award-winning community school and a vibrant community council.”

Indeed in a recent inspection the school was deemed “excellent” in meeting the community’s needs, and head teacher Janice Chapman drives a successful curriculum which alsotargets health and wellbeing.

Mrs Chapman commented: “As the largest housing estate in the Borders it has long been recognised that Burnfoot is an area of significant need. But the school, along with the community, works tirelessly to try to address these needs.”

Dr Eric Baijal, joint director of public health, says the report proves the need for their continued efforts in Burnfoot, adding: “Burnfoot is one of five areas within the Borders that are commonly perceived as being disadvantaged. These figures provide convincing evidence of this and we have continued to drive various interventions in these communities to improve its wellbeing.

“In particular, the Healthy Living Network has been a means of improving the health of the community and we support the continuing development of this initiative.”

But questioning the value of the report, Councillor Marshall added: “With 32 per cent of the indicators containing the words “data not available”, it will certainly be viewed by some as a number-crunching exercise, and what worries me more is how much public money was spent producing it.”