North Ayrshire has the highest avoidable death rate in Scotland – with the shocking figures blamed on high poverty rates.

North Ayrshire, the fourth most deprived local authority area in Scotland, saw the highest rate – 373 avoidable deaths per 100,000 people – while Scotland itself has the highest rate of avoidable deaths in the UK.

North Ayrshire’s Health and Social Care Partnership blamed the area’s high levels of poverty and associated ill-health while NHS Health Scotland has called for action across a range of policy areas to tackle economic and social inequalities.

Avoidable deaths are defined as people under the age of 75 dying from causes which can be overcome in the presence of “timely and effective healthcare” or “public health interventions”.

These include conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, drug use disorders and HIV/AIDS.

In 2016, the Scottish rate stood at 301 deaths per 100,000 people, compared with 287 in 2014.

Using official figures, an investigation by the BBC found that across Scotland, the rate of avoidable deaths in 2016 was 301 per 100,000, a total of almost 16,000 men and women.

The rate is higher for men (376) than women (232).

The BBC’s Shared Data Unit analysed public data from the Office for National Statistics (for 2014-16), National Records of Scotland (for 2016) and Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (for 2012-16).

A spokesperson for North Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership said: “There is an ever-growing body of evidence that proves the link between poverty and poorer health outcomes.

“Within North Ayrshire, we have significant numbers of working-age adults who are not in work and whilst our unemployment rate is falling, we are still among the highest in the country. It is also the case that currently 4.9 per cent of all deprived datazones in Scotland are in North Ayrshire.

“The higher rates of avoidable mortality in North Ayrshire are inextricably linked to higher levels of deprivation and associated ill-health.

“The Health and Social Care Partnership works alongside all Community Planning Partners to support those affected by ill-health, to help mitigate the impact of poverty and to work on strategic objectives to improve opportunities for all. Most importantly, North Ayrshire Council continues to work with colleagues in Scottish Government in efforts to bring investment and jobs to the area.”

Dr Andrew Fraser, from NHS Health Scotland, said: “We know that people in poorer areas experience more harm from alcohol, tobacco and fast food than those in more affluent areas.

“Part of the reason for this is that it is easier to access the things that harm our health in those areas.

“To prevent death, disease and harm we need to take actions where and when they are needed.

“We must address harm from alcohol, tobacco, being overweight or obese.

“However, these are often common factors, co-existing in communities, groups and individuals, and so we must also address the environment we live in.”

The figure for England was 218 per 100,000, in Wales it was 257 per 100,000 and in Northern Ireland it stood at 241 per 100,000.