COUNTY residents enjoy healthy lifestyles but longer life spans continue to put pressure on services, the county’s director of public health has said.

Dr Jonathan McWilliam spoke yesterday as he gave his first annual report since the NHS handed over responsibility for promoting good health last April.

Issues like preventing smoking, alcohol abuse and promoting diet and exercise now falls to Oxfordshire County Council.

When the NHS was founded in 1948, some 48 per cent of county residents died before 65 but that is now 14 per cent.

Men now live to about 84 and women 87.

Dr McWilliam said: “We do live in a relatively health county.

“Overall health in Oxfordshire is good and this has meant that people live longer compared with 100 years ago, people are living 30 years longer.

“That good news also brings in its wake some opportunities and some challenges.”

He said there was mounting evidence that older people will be “more active and independent than today” but still risk medical problems and disability.

Preventing problems earlier in life is key, he said, but just 46 per cent, 19,001 people aged 40 to 74, took up an invite for a five-year GP check up.

And only 57 per cent of people aged 60 to 74 sent back an NHS postal stool sample test for bowel cancer.

People in “rural isolation” and pressure on transport are further challenges while funding pressures mean the council will need to “help communities to help themselves”.

Yet he said public health had been “welcomed with open arms” by the council after previously being overseen by the NHS for 40 years.

He said “strong” debate between councillors meant services that were “one size fits all” could now be tailored to different areas.

He said the ability of council committees to probe concerns are “powerful tools” and four-year instead of one-year NHS plans were “a revelation”.

And Dr McWilliam said specific contracts for particular services rather than block contracts for a range of NHS services meant more “accurate” services.

The April introduction of full-time nurses for all secondary schools and increasing sexual health treatment and diagnosis centres from two to eight were examples of this, he said.

Dr McWilliam said: “It has been a good year to come back into local Government for public health.”

For the full story and analysis of the report, see tomorrow’s Oxford Mail

JR ‘one of worst’ for dirt

Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital was yesterday named “among the worst” in England for infection control and cleanliness.

The rating was one of seven standards published on the NHS Choices website as part of a Government drive for greater transparency.

The rating is based on the number of C. difficile and MRSA infections – one of each in the last three months – and patients’ views.

The Department of Health said this indicates standards around “preventing infections and keeping the environment clean”.

Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, had yet to comment. Its Churchill and Nuffield Orthopaedic hospitals in Oxford and Banbury’s Horton met the standards or were at the expected level.