DISEASES that were rife during Victorian times are on the rise in East Lancashire, experts have warned.

New figures published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre have revealed sharp increases in gout, with Blackburn with Darwen reporting figures which were well above the national average last year.

Rates of malnutrition and whooping cough were also above average in the whole of Lancashire last year, although figures to show regional increases over the last five years were not available.

Nationally, hospital admissions with gout as the primary or secondary diagnosis have nearly doubled since 2009, with nearly 86,866 cases last year.

Malnutrition and scarlet fever admissions also nearly doubled over the same period, to 6,686 and 845 in 2013/14, while cases of whooping cough increased slightly to 299.

The regional figures, published for 2013/14 only, related solely to primary diagnoses, so returned much smaller figures.

In Blackburn with Darwen, there were 19 cases of gout, a rate of 14.3 admissions per 100,000 head of population. The East Lancashire rate was 11, which was also above the national average of 10.7 cases per 100,000.

Experts believe the increasing cases of gout, a type of arthritis which causes severe pain in the joints, are likely to reflect rising obesity levels, and are also associated with excessive drinking.

In the Lancashire public health region, which includes Blackburn with Darwen, there were 20 cases of malnutrition last year, a rate of 1.4 per 100,000, compared to the national rate of 1.1, while the county had 13 cases of whooping cough, a rate of 0.9, compared to the national rate of 0.5.

Ministers said the rise in malnutrition could be partly due to better diagnosis and detection of those at risk, The Lancashire Telegraph has previously reported a spike in scarlet fever, with more than 160 people in Lancashire suffering with the infection in the seven months to April, compared to just 76 during the same period last year.

Kingsley Manning, chairman of the HSCIC, said even though rates were still low, the NHS needed to take note about what was happening.

He added: "We are fortunate that these diseases are not as widespread today, (but) healthcare organisations may be interested in undertaking further study into the trends highlighted in our report."