BARROW’S higher-than-average coronavirus mortality rate is due to deprivation and wealth inequality, according to leading health and political figures.

At a meeting with the executive committee of Barrow Borough Council, Cumbria’s director of public health Colin Cox showed Barrow had been ‘particularly badly hit’ by the virus due to the ‘levels of deprivation’ seen in the town.

He presented statistics which showed Barrow’s mortality rate per 100,000 people was 21 per cent higher than the national average, but said this is due to deprivation and similar statistics are found in other deprived areas.

Mr Cox said: “There are places that look as if they’re more badly hit, and that’s associated very significantly with levels of deprivation and previously-existing poor health conditions, and so in-fact while those areas of deprivation look as if they’re much more badly-hit by Covid-19, actually it’s not much different in terms of the increase they see compared to their rate of mortality from other factors overall.

“So yes they’re more badly hit, but then Barrow as we all know has been more badly hit by heart disease, by respiratory conditions, by cancers and effectively by all causes for quite some time.

“So what Covid-19 is doing here I think is not demonstrating that Barrow has been particularly badly hit within the English context, but what it’s doing is drawing attention to the significant health inequalities that have already existed, both within Cumbria and in the wider country.”

He also said that the reason for Barrow having more confirmed cases of coronavirus than anywhere else in the country earlier in the pandemic could be attributed to the Morecambe Bay NHS trust ‘aggressively’ testing staff and staff members’ families - action which he described as ‘very commendable’.

“The question of whether Barrow is an outlier is one that’s been difficult to dig in to,” he said.

“But a lot of it is statistical anomaly that is based on the amount of testing that’s been done, and where Barrow has actually been more badly hit, it’s not been any more badly hit than you would expect it to be, given the levels of deprivation that you see.”

Simon Fell, MP for Barrow and Furness, said there were ‘a lot’ of people in Barrow with underlying health conditions which could have contributed to the high coronavirus figures for the town.

He said deprivation was ‘absolutely’ something he was working on, pointing to the funding the local hospital trust had been given to develop plans for new hospital facilities in Barrow.

“We can better educate parents and families about how to look after themselves and also stop problems early, and deal with them before they become endemic,” he said.

“There is a lot of prosperity in Barrow.

“The real issue is the gap between those who have a good wage and an income coming into their home and those who don’t, and that’s what we have got to try and deal with - the inequality.”

Cllr Ann Thomson, leader of Barrow Borough Council, said: “We know that levels of deprivation lead to health inequalities nationwide and that this is an issue for some of our communities here in Barrow.

“Covid-19 is a disease that has further exposed these inequalities.

“Even before the coronavirus outbreak, we were committed as a council to tackling inequalities through our council plan which was published in January.

“Now, our focus is on helping communities across the borough to recover from the pandemic through reimagined services that best meet the needs of our residents. We will also work closely with our partners in tackling and reducing inequality wherever it exists.”

Yesterday, UHMBT confirmed a patient sadly died after testing for coronavirus on July 9 - the first patient to do die from cornavirus at one of the trust's hospitals in several days.