Hundreds of people suffered unnecessary ‘deaths of despair’ in Bolton over a three-year period, new analysis has found – with calls for funding for services to be ‘reinstated’.

Researchers from the University of Manchester analysed coroners' court records from 2019 to 2021.

Their analysis showed 46,200 people lost their lives due to drugs, alcohol or suicide in England – the equivalent of 42 people per day.

In Bolton, there were 180 deaths linked to alcohol, 95 caused by drugs and 66 suicides reported during the same period – which includes the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

In total, there were 341 'deaths of despair', a collective term for deaths from these causes.

It meant the area was ranked 25th out of 308 local authorities in England with a mortality rate of 49.7 deaths per 100,000 people.

Cllr Sean Fielding, Bolton Council’s cabinet member for health, said: “These are troubling, but sadly unsurprising, figures. For too many people work no longer feels like it pays, and secure and stable homes are out of reach, among other problems.

“As a consequence, the number of people in our society who feel utterly helpless has grown over the last decade.

“When this is combined with the decimation of preventative services helping people with addiction, and the absence of good quality universal mental health support, people are being driven to despair without an end in sight nor the help to see one.

“At the very least funding for services that support those struggling with drug and alcohol abuse, or their mental health, needs reinstating.

“Though to sustainably tackle deaths of despair we need to fundamentally change the way the economy works so that it works for people, not profit, and provides good quality homes and jobs that enable everybody to lead a fulfilling life.”

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Blackpool experienced the highest rate of deaths of despair, with 83.8, followed by Middlesbrough and Hartlepool. Of the 20 areas with the highest rates, 16 were in the north of England. Barnet, in north London, had the lowest rate at 14.5, followed by Bromley in Greater London and Thurrock in Essex.

The study found local authorities with higher proportions of unemployment, white British ethnicity and people living alone had higher mortality rates.

Urban and economically inactive areas also tended to have higher rates.

Nat Travis, national head of service at health and social care provider Turning Point, said the research "highlights the need for continued government investment into treatment services".

She said: “What we often see, are more people coming to us at a later stage when they are far more unwell, which makes it harder to undo the damage that's already been done due to substance use.

"This is why it’s so important that services are well-funded and have the resources to be able to access all areas."

A spokesperson for the Department for Health and Social Care said: "The Government is committed to narrowing the gap in healthy life expectancy by 2030 and to increasing healthy life expectancy by five years by 2035.

"Spending on mental health has increased by more than £4.5 billion in cash terms since 2018-19.

"We’ve published a 10-year plan for tackling drug and alcohol-related harms and are investing an extra £532 million between 2022-23 to 2024-25.

"Our ambitious plans for a smokefree generation will also save tens of thousands of lives."

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