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UK austerity measures to social care led to 120,000 deaths

Published on 17/11/17 at 10:01am

A new study has claimed that austerity measures introduced since 2010 are linked to 120,000 deaths across England. The research primarily pointed towards a drop in funding to social care and a fall in the number of nurses as the likely cause.

Researchers from Cambridge University and UCL drew their conclusions from studying health data against health and social care spending from 2001 to 2014. It noted that between 2001 and 2010, deaths in England fell by average of 0.77% each year and then rose by 0.87% between 2011 and 2014.

The latter period of time correlated to a decrease in social care spend by 1.19% each year and a drop in the number of nurses being recruited. From 2001 to 2010, the number of nurses increased by 1.61% every year but through 2011 to 2014 rose by just 0.07%.

It was found that between the 2011 to 2014 periods, excess deaths, going against trends from the prior period, were measured at 45,368. The deaths were mostly among the over 60s and care home residents, driving the association between social care funding cuts and the rise in expected deaths.

Based upon the 2011 to 2014 findings, researchers claim that 152,141 people could die between 2015 and 2020.

In order to reverse this, the report claimed that an extra £6.3 billion every year would be needed to close this ‘morality gap’.

One of the co-authors of the study, Professor Lawrence King of the Applied Health Research Unit at Cambridge University, was damning in his appraisal of the findings, as reported to The Independent:

"It is now very clear that austerity does not promote growth or reduce deficits – it is bad economics, but good class politics," he said. "This study shows it is also a public health disaster. It is not an exaggeration to call it economic murder.”

Though the study does not directly prove cause and effect, something that would be impossible to measure, but that “spending constraints, especially PES [public expenditure on social care], are associated with a substantial mortality gap”.

Ben Hargreaves

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