Press release

Action needed on liver disease, as CMO takes temperature of the country’s health

Comprehensive action is needed to stop the rising tide of liver disease, is one of the key findings to emerge from Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies first annual report that is launched today.

The report, which is the first of two volumes, provides a comprehensive picture of England’s health by bringing together a number of data sources in one place for the first time.

It brings into sharp focus that England is one of the few countries in the EU where a major cause of preventable death is on the increase.

Between 2000 and 2009, deaths from chronic liver disease and cirrhosis in the under 65s increased by around 20 per cent while they fell by the same amount in most EU countries. And all three major causes of liver disease - obesity, undiagnosed infection, and, increasingly, harmful drinking - are preventable.

The report draws on data from a number of sources and is designed to be a used by local authorities and Public Health England as they take on their new roles to improve the health of local populations. Key facts the data reveals about the country’s health include:

  • those who live the longest spend the shortest amount of time with a limiting long term illness such as heart  disease, diabetes or  osteoporosis;
  • 727,000 years of life were lost to cancer in the under 75s in 2010 and 20 per cent of these were due to lung cancer - the single largest cause; and
  • around a third of adults have three or more risk factors such as raised cholesterol, diabetes or are overweight, which increase their chance of poor health. This increases to around two fifths of adults in the most deprived areas.

The report goes on to look at key areas of health including heart disease, obesity and cancer, and makes a number of recommendations around access to care and how data on can be better used. Recommendations include:

  • Giving better access to diabetes care - only 50 per cent of people registered as diabetic receive the annual recommended checks they should.
  • Public Health England should ensure our capacity to capture data on long term conditions such as loss of hearing, back pain, incontinency and dementia is as strong as current surveillance on the causes of early death.
  • The new health systems must work closely together to increase survival and reduce mortality from cancers such as lung and pancreatic cancer.
  • Nearly 70 per cent of us have two or more habits or medical risk factors like smoking, harmful alcohol use or not eating enough fruit and veg, that are linked with life limiting diseases.  And health professionals must focus on tackling these together rather than individually.

**Professor Dame Sally Davies said: **

“I have done a comprehensive analysis of the state of the country’s health, and found some areas where we are doing really well and others where there is still a lot of improvement needed.

“I was struck by the data on liver disease particularly. This is the only major cause of preventable death that is on the increase in England that is generally falling in other comparable European nations. We must act to change this.

“I strongly believe that data and scientific evidence should be at the heart of policy making and advice to Government and have reflected this in the Annual Report. Data should be used to inform our action on public health and to evaluate the effectiveness of that action.

“I hope the data that I have provided will become a major tool for the Department of Health, Public Health England and local authorities as they draw up their strategies for improving public health.”

Volume two of the Chief Medical Officer’s report will look at infections in more detail. It will be published early next year.

**Notes to Editors **

For further information, contact the Department of Health press office on 020 7210 5281

The CMO report can be found on the Department of Health website.

Comparisons on liver disease across Europe were made between England and the average for the EU-15. The EU15 comprised the following 15 countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom.

History - The role of the Chief Medical Officer was first conceived in the mid-19th century and grew out of an ever-increasing interest by government in public health. 1848 saw the establishment of the General Board of Health, a national board with a primary focus on sanitation and the environment. It was only in 1847 and 1848, when local Acts were passed in Liverpool and London establishing the first Public Health Departments, that the General Board of Health received any medical representation.

Sir John Simon was appointed as the first Medical Officer for London in 1855. He went on to become the Board’s Chief Medical Officer, a role which was transferred to the Privy Council in 1858 following the dissolution of the General Health Board.

In his role of Chief Medical Officer to the Privy Council, Sir John started the tradition of a Chief Medical Officer annual report. The purpose was to provide an independent assessment of the state of the public’s health.

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