latest health care news

23.11.17

Government ‘must take urgent action’ following 11,000 extra winter deaths reveal

New figures released today show there were 31,800 excess winter deaths among the over-65s in England in 2016-17, an increase of 11,000 from the previous year.

Charity Age UK says the news should remind people that there is much more work to do to protect older people, especially as the healthcare and social care systems are under heavy pressure already this winter.

Despite increases in the number of deaths in England, the excess winter mortality in Wales stayed the same and the wintry period was not particularly severe, prompting questions around the cause of such an increase.

There are also concerns surrounding the efficacy of the flu vaccines and fears that elderly people tend to live in poorly insulated homes and are hesitant to use the heating in the colder months for financial reasons.

“This dramatic jump in excess winter deaths in England is a terrible rebuke to anyone who thought it was ‘job done’ when it comes to keeping older people safe and sound through the winter,” commented Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK. “Remember that every one of these deaths was, by definition, preventable.”

She went on to question government policy on elderly care in reference to yesterday’s Budget, which had no major provision for social care funding.

Although chancellor Philip Hammond did announced an additional £6.3bn in NHS funding by 2022-23, he has been heavily criticised for giving less than is needed to continue services.

A lack of funding could mean problems across health services through the winter, as Danny Mortimer, chief executive of NHS Employers, discussed in a piece for NHE last month.

However, some health chiefs believe the problem is more complex than just a lack of funding. Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said low staffing levels were the root cause of the ‘winter crisis’.

Top image: Downhill

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