PEOPLE in Blackburn with Darwen are living longer – but improvements in life expectancy are lagging behind the rest of the country.

Blackburn with Darwen has the fourth slowest falling death rate for men and the 12th slowest falling mortality rates for women of 352 primary care trusts in England and Wales.

A National Audit Office report revealed that nationally the average life expectancy is now 77.9 years for men and 82 years for women.

But in Blackburn with Darwen that figure is 74.2 years and 79.2 years respectively.

And despite efforts to close inequality, the difference between the life expectancy of the wealthiest 10 per cent and least wealthy 10 per cent of people in Blackburn with Darwen is 11.3 years for men and seven years for women.

The wealthiest men and women live for 78.5 years and 81.9 years on average respectively, while the least wealthy men and women live for 66.7 years and 74.7 years.

The audit office, which identified the most deprived 'spearhead' areas for its focus, including Blackburn with Darwen, has called for more investment to help GPs tackle problems like smoking and poor diet in poor communities.

It said the figures mean a Labour government target to reduce the difference in life expectancy by 10 per cent by 2010 is unlikely to be met.

However, Dominic Harrison, director of public health at NHS Blackburn with Darwen Teaching Care Trust Plus, said that these figures alone did not show the true picture in this area.

He said life expectancy at birth in Blackburn with Darwen has actually increased when the 1991 to 1993 figures were compared to to 2005 to 2007 by almost three years for men, from 71.3 to 74.2 years, and by just over two years for women, from 77 years to 79.2 years.

Mr Harrison said: “We are improving life expectancy dramatically and that must not be forgotten. The issue is we haven't done it as fast as everybody else.”

He added he wanted more integrated GP and neighbourhood services as well as to use neighbourhood profiling data to better target NHS and council services to improve health targets.