The Forest of Dean has a lower rate of avoidable deaths than the South West average, new figures show.

With nearly a quarter of all deaths across England and Wales in 2022 considered avoidable, the King's Fund think tank said avoidable ill health has "devastating consequences for individuals, families, communities and the economy".

Avoidable mortality is defined as deaths caused by either preventable or treatable health conditions for those aged under 75. They can be avoided through effective public health and timely healthcare interventions.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show there were 613 avoidable deaths in the Forest of Dean between 2020 and 2022, with 66% of them considered preventable.

The area had a rate of 223 avoidable deaths per 100,000 people – up from 187 in 2017-19, before the pandemic.

This was higher than the South West average of 211.

The North West had the highest rate and the most avoidable deaths recorded at 310 and 61,503, while the South West had the lowest rate.

Veena Raleigh, senior fellow at the King’s Fund, said: "The cut in public health budgets of one-quarter since 2015-16, which fell most heavily on people living in the most deprived areas of England, illustrates governmental failure to adequately prioritise improving health and preventing illness in areas where people have the poorest health.

"Healthcare services in the UK are also under-resourced compared with international peers and key health outcomes are worse a powerful testimony that the UK is doing poorly also on treating people."

In 2022, 22% of total deaths at all ages in England and Wales were considered avoidable – down from 24% in 2021.

Kathryn Marszalek, senior analytical manager at the Health Foundation, said: "While avoidable mortality rates have fallen since 2021, they are still higher than pre-pandemic levels.

"However, this will still include the many Covid deaths in 2022."

The ONS said cancer was the leading cause of avoidable mortality in 2022, but it has declined steadily since 2001, while the mortality rate for alcohol-related and drug-related deaths has continued to increase.

Ms Marszalek said: "The next government faces an uphill challenge in improving the population's health and reducing inequalities.

"Improving health needs long-term cross-government action ranging from ensuring good-quality jobs and housing to investing in wider public services and ensuring that everyone has equitable access to health care services."

Men saw a higher rate of avoidable deaths in every area across the country. In the Forest of Dean it stood at 284 and 164 for women.

Ms Raleigh said without a significant focus on improving the nation's wellbeing, political aspirations for economic growth are unlikely to be realised.

"Preventing ill-health and reducing premature deaths is surely one of the biggest challenges of our age, and while political parties have set out some measures to improve public health such as committing to a smokefree generation, none of them match the scale of reform needed to bring about serious change," she added.