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What the Dickens? Rickets, scurvy and gout on the rise in Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 11:49 08 March 2019 | UPDATED: 13:40 08 March 2019

A swollen and inflamed foot: gout is represented by an attacking demon. Coloured soft-ground etching by J. Gillray, 1799. Credit: Wellcome Collection

A swollen and inflamed foot: gout is represented by an attacking demon. Coloured soft-ground etching by J. Gillray, 1799. Credit: Wellcome Collection

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Rickets, scurvy, malnutrition and other Dickensian-era diseases were all treated at Norfolk hospitals last year.

Ankle of gout patient. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphotoAnkle of gout patient. Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Despite certain illnesses virtually being eradicated in the 1950s there were up to seven cases of rickets and scurvy treated at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) in 2017/18.

Between 2015/16 and 2017/18 there was a 72pc rise in the cases of gout treated at all three Norfolk hospitals, rising from 1,770 to 3,060.

And there was a 276pc rise in cases of vitamin D deficiency, from 170 to 640.

While gout is traditionally thought of as a condition of the rich, it is now mainly linked to poor diet in general and obesity.

Leg from a patient suffering from scurvy. Credit: St Bartholomew's Hospital Archives & Museum, Wellcome CollectionLeg from a patient suffering from scurvy. Credit: St Bartholomew's Hospital Archives & Museum, Wellcome Collection

The conditions are classed as Victorian because they were more commonly found in the 19th century when poverty was rife.

And many are linked to malnutrition.

In 2017/18 105 were treated at Norfolk hospitals for malnutrition.

Meanwhile in 2018, 10 foodbank distribution centres in Norwich handed out 9,322 food parcels of which 3,147 went to children under the age of 16.

Norwich foodbank project manager Hannah Worsley.
PHOTO: Nick ButcherNorwich foodbank project manager Hannah Worsley. PHOTO: Nick Butcher

And North Denes Primary School in Great Yarmouth opened its own food bank in December after headteacher Debbie Whiting said children were “too hungry to learn” because of delays to universal credit.

Hannah Worsley, from the Norwich Foodbank, said the number of people treated for malnutrition was “shocking”.

She said: “It should not be happening.”

But she also said when people sought out help they had often not eaten for a number of days.

She said: “Lots of people come to us saying they have not eaten for a few days, it’s more about having something at all, so I’m not surprised.

“We work very closely with the Trussell Trust ensure our parcels are nutritionally balanced.”

She also said demand for the food bank’s services was ever rising, and they were giving out between 700 and 800 parcels a month at the moment, around 100 more than this time last year.


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