The National Children’s Bureau has revealed what it describes as a “postcode lottery” when it comes to children’s health – including their teeth.
Even in areas with similar levels of deprivation and social problems, there is significant variation in the state of children’s teeth.
Overall, the worst place for children’s teeth in England was Leicester, where 51 per cent of under-fives have tooth decay. This contrasts starkly with the healthier parts of the country, such as West Sussex, where only 9.5 per cent of children have cavities.
Interestingly, despite high levels of deprivation, children in Hartlepool, South Tyneside and Islington have relatively low levels of tooth decay. However, there was an overall trend towards greater amounts of tooth decay in areas where poverty was more widespread.
However, teeth were not the only area where these differences were observed. For example, young children in the Isle of Wight were four times more likely to attend hospital with an injury than their counterparts in central London.
Anna Feuchtwang, chief executive of the National Children’s Bureau, said: “It is shocking that two children growing up in neighbouring areas can expect such a wildly different quality of health.
“The link between poverty and poor health is not inevitable. Work is urgently needed to understand how local health services can lessen the impact of living in a deprived area.
“We need local and national government to make the same efforts to narrow the gap in health outcomes across the country for under-fives as has been made to narrow the gap in achievement between poor and rich pupils in school.”
In response to the report, the Department of Health has said that the differences show that healthcare for young children needs to be devolved to local councils, to enable them to respond to the particular challenges of their own areas. This is due to take place in October, as per government plans. It also suggested that more health visitors and midwives could help with local problems.