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Research has suggested that cuts to the NHS and social care are the likely causes of an unprecedented rise in mortality in England and Wales.
The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Oxford University and Blackburn with Darwen council collectively argue that the increase in mortality rates took place against a backdrop of ‘severe cuts’, compromising the performance of health care staff.
The rise in deaths, reportedly rising 30,000 from 2014 to 529,655 in 2015, was the highest mortality rate since 2008 and the largest in percentage terms in almost 50 years.
Published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, the research paper also outlined why the relatively low effectiveness of the flu vaccine and cold weather were not causes - saying that the ‘evidence points to a major failure of the health system, possibly exacerbated by failings in social care’. They also noted that the increase in mortality came as ambulance reposes times and waiting times rose in A&E departments.
£16.7 billion of cuts to the welfare budget and a 17 per cent decrease in spending for older people since 2009 have been ‘exacerbated’ factors, with the authors hoping that research ‘raises a red flag’.
The professors also warned that the ‘spike’ risked becoming a ‘pattern’ with deaths from October 2016 onwards increasing by seven per cent compared with the five-year average.
Professor Danny Dorling, of the University of Oxford, said: “It may sound obvious that more elderly people will have died earlier as a result of government cutbacks, but to date the number of deaths has not been estimated and the government have not admitted responsibility.”
The Department of Health has refuted the verdict, saying that ‘to blame an increase in a single year on ‘cuts’ to the NHS budget is arithmetically impossible’.