THE SNP Government has been accused of “mismanagement” of the NHS after the number of years that Scots can expect to live in good health fell – even before the onslaught of the pandemic.
The figures, released by the National Records of Scotland, show that the poorest in the country will spend more than a third of their lives in poor health.
Between 2018 and 2020, the average healthy life expectancy for men was 60.9 years, while women live an average of 61.8 years in good health, according to the NRS.
The latest figures from the record’s office mean that healthy life expectancy for Scots has fallen for the last four years for women and the last three for men.
Maria Kaye-Bardgett, statistician at the NRS, said: “These figures continue a trend we have seen in recent years with healthy life expectancy falling for males and females.”
Healthy life expectancy is an estimate of the number of years lived in “very good” or “good” general health, based on how people perceive their state of health at the time of completing the annual population survey.
In 2017-2019, men would have expected to live 61.7 years in good health, which means there has been a drop of 39 weeks in the latest data.
And for women, the 2017-2019 figures show they would have expected good health for 61.9 years, which means there had been a drop of eight weeks.
According to the research, the most deprived communities spend on average 24 fewer years in good health than those living in the least deprived areas.
Those in the poorest areas also die younger, the NRS said, and spend more than a third of their lives in poor health.
Orkney was the area with the highest healthy life expectancy for both men and women, at 71.2 years and 77.5 years.
In North Ayrshire, women would live in good health for only 54 years, while men in Inverclyde would live in good health for 54.4 years.
Ms Kaye-Bardgett said: “Healthy Life Expectancy is a key measure of health and wellbeing in Scotland. These figures are useful for those planning services to meet people’s needs.”
The new research, which looks at Scotland between 2018 and 2020, showed that those in the richest parts of Scotland lived about 15% of their lives in poor health.
Dr Sandesh Gulhane, the Scottish Conservative’s health spokesman, said: These numbers are damning proof of the impact years of NHS mismanagement by the SNP has had on the Scottish people.
“The figures in the most deprived areas are especially concerning and, as with the attainment gap in education, it’s those from disadvantaged backgrounds who suffer most under this SNP Government.
“The impact of the pandemic will not have helped but the decline predates it. It’s an inevitable consequence of more people being forced to wait for essential treatment and the number of cancelled operations spiralling, which in turn is down to lack of resources.”
He added: “It’s tragic for the individuals affected because prolonged poor health can affect their ability to work, their self-esteem and their independence.
“The buck stops with Humza Yousaf who must act urgently to halt the decline in the nation’s health.”
Labour’s Jackie Baillie labelled the findings “another grim set of statistics”.
She added: “Years of public health failures, that pre-date the pandemic, and mounting pressure on our NHS are robbing people of their best years.
“As is all too often the case, it is the worst off who are paying the biggest price – these shameful inequalities are nothing short of a national scandal.
“Our NHS has been plunged deeper into crisis since this point, raising the bleak prospect that things are set to get even worse.
“The SNP must act with the urgency needed to improve health and wellbeing across Scotland and tackle these disgraceful health inequalities.”
And the drop was criticised by Alex Cole-Hamilton, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, who said it made him “profoundly sad to think that people are getting to enjoy fewer years of healthy life than they used to”.
“Complex health needs are on the rise, and persistent issues with alcohol and obesity are not being tackled anywhere near fast enough,” he said.
“The devastation of Covid-19 and the failure to turn the corner on rising drugs deaths has also played a significant role.”
The Scottish Government said it was “continuing our work to increase healthy life expectancy across Scotland by implementing our bold package of measures to tackle key issues such as smoking, obesity, inactivity and alcohol misuse”.
A spokesman added: “We are also adopting a place-based approach to local health improvement, supporting joint-working across the wider public and third sectors to improve health and wellbeing and reduce inequalities.
“Targeting actions to areas and communities most in need will ensure equity in our approach and avoid widening inequalities further – however, we would be able to go further if we had the full range of welfare, social and economic powers, many of which remain reserved to the UK Government.
“This work to help people live longer, healthier lives is supported by our investment in measures such as affordable housing, free prescriptions, free personal care and providing free school meals.”