THERE were highs and lows in the state of the nation’s health and healthcare services in 2019.

One of the most exciting developments was research published in the BMJ in April indicating that cervical cancer rates will be slashed in future due to the effectiveness of the vaccine against its main cause - human papillomavirus.

Dr Kevin Pollock, a scientist at Glasgow Caledonian University and co-author of the study, said the HPV vaccine had “exceeded expectation” after they found an 89 per cent reduction in pre-cancerous lesions in women who had been immunised compared to those who had not.

READ MORE: School HPV vaccine delivering 'dramatic' cuts in disease 

In October, multiple sclerosis campaigners in Scotland also welcomed the decision to recommend a “game-changing” stem cell transplant therapy, HSCT, for provision on NHS Scotland.

Eligible Scottish patients have been paying £40,00-60,000 to travel overseas for the treatment privately, while some patients in England were able to access it on the NHS.

Although the roll-out of a centre of excellence to carry out the procedure - shown in clinical trials to reduce disability - will take time, the move was hailed as a “huge step forward”.

Earlier this month, ovarian cancer patients in Scotland with the BRCA mutation were granted a new drug - olaparib - which has been shown to halt the progress of the disease for up to three years.

The decision brought Scotland into line with the rest of the UK and could benefit around one in five patients.

There was less positive news on longevity, however, with figures from the National Records of Scotland this month showing that improvements in life expectancy have stalled since 2012-2014, with many areas actually now experiencing a decline.

READ MORE: 'Many' areas of Scotland see life expectancy drop 

The steepest falls occurred among women in Orkney and in both sexes in Lanarkshire, Tayside, Borders, Fife and Highland, with males from the most deprived areas predicted to live for 13.1 fewer years than those in the most affluent postcodes.

A major socioeconomic divide was also found in childhood obesity with the latest set of statistics for Primary One pupils in Scotland.

The data revealed that the gulf between five-year-olds from the poorest households and those from the wealthiest is now the widest since records began 17 years ago, with 13.7% of the most deprived children ranked at risk of obesity compared to 6.5% of the least deprived.

This represents a dramatic change from the beginning of the century when one in 10 five-year-olds - regardless of deprivation - were dangerously heavy.

Cancer Research said the inequality was “shocking”, and called for tougher rules on how retailers market junk food.

READ MORE: Childhood obesity gap wider than ever 

More than a year on from Scotland’s new general practice contract, figures also revealed a worrying slump in the number of GP partners needed to keep practices afloat.

Although the total number of family doctors had increased, a record share (21% ) are now working on a salaried basis, while the proportion who are partners has shrunk to a record low of 66%.