The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 24th November 2017

Economic murder — austerity has killed 120,000 say academics

A STUDY prepared by academics from University College London (UCL), Cambridge University and Oxford University, published last week in the prestigious British Medical Journal (BMJ), has concluded that austerity policies introduced from 2010 have increased the death rate, resulting in 120,000 more deaths than would have happened otherwise.

Analysis of the data showed that between 2001 and 2010 deaths in England fell by an average of 0.77 per cent every year, but rose by an average of 0.87 per cent every year between 2011 and 2014. The spending restraints were associated with 45,368 excess deaths between 2010 and 2014 compared with equivalent trends before 2010.

The authors of the report, Effects of health and social care spending constraints on mortality in England: a time trend analysis, also predict that another 150,000 extra deaths will have happened between 2015 and 2020 unless those policies are changed.

Co-author Professor Lawrence King of the Applied Health Research Unit at Cambridge University said that “it is now very clear that austerity does not promote growth or reduce deficits — it is bad economics, but good class politics.” He added that the results of the study show that the Tories have overseen “a public health disaster” and claimed that “it is not an exaggeration to call it economic murder.”

Yet large sections of the media, including the BBC, have failed to mention the report as the Government tries to claim that the report lacks proof that the increase in mortality is due to austerity.

The report found that most of the extra deaths happened amongst those over 60 and amongst residents of care homes. And they site the reduction in nurse numbers as a critical factor.

And every £10 drop in spend-per-head on social care was associated with five extra care-home deaths per 100,000 of the population, the analysis showed. These associations remained after further detailed analysis, and taking account of global and national economic factors.

additional toll

The researchers warn that there could be an additional toll of up to 100 deaths every day from now on in, estimating that an annual cash injection of £6.3 billion would be needed to close this “mortality gap.”

“Our study suggests that it may be beneficial to improve care delivered in care homes and at home to mitigate adverse health outcomes associated with spending constraints,” said study co-author Dr Wulan Wulaningsih (UCL Institute of Cardiovascular Science).

Between 2010 and 2014, the NHS in England has had a real-term annual increase in Government funding of only 1.3 per cent, despite rising patient demand and healthcare costs. Further, real-term spend on social care has fallen by 1.19 per cent every year during the same period, despite a significant projected increase in the numbers of over 85s (those most likely to need social care).

To try to determine the impact of this on population health, the researchers mined nationally available data on population deaths, life expectancy and potential years of life lost. They collected data on health, as well as social care resources and finances from 2001 to 2014.

They compared actual death rates for 2011 to 2014 with those that would be expected, based on trends before spending cuts came into play, and taking account of national and economic factors such as unemployment rates and pensions.

Changes in the numbers of hospital and community nurses were the most salient factors in the associations found between spend and care-home deaths. From 2001 to 2010 nurse numbers rose by an average of 1.61 per cent every year, but from 2010 to 2014 they rose by just 0.07 per cent — 20 times lower than in the previous decade.

On the basis of the trends between 2009 and 2014, the researchers estimate that an extra 152,141 people could die between 2015 and 2020, equivalent to nearly 100 extra deaths every day. The funds needed to close this “mortality gap” would be £6.3 billion every year, or a total of £25.3 billion, they calculate.