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17.02.17

Analysis links healthcare cuts to 30,000 excess deaths

Cuts to health and social care budgets have been linked to a substantial increase in patient mortality, with 30,000 excess deaths recorded in 2015, new analysis released has suggested.

The report, written by researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, in collaboration with the University of Oxford and Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, tested four different possibilities for the rise in mortality and ruled out cold weather and flu as well as data errors as the main reason for the sharp rise in excess deaths.

 By looking into NHS performance data, the research was able to identify clear system failures in the NHS as health providers missed almost all their targets for both ambulance call out times and A&E waiting times.

 The rate of staff absences also rose and, despite this, posts remained unfilled as new staff were not appointed by clinicians.

 Commenting on the findings, Professor Martin McKee, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “The impact of cuts resulting from the imposition of austerity on the NHS has been profound.

 “Expenditure has failed to keep pace with demand and the situation has been exacerbated by dramatic reductions in the welfare budget of £16.7bn and in social care spending.”

 He added that the possibility that the cuts to health and social care are implicated in almost 30,000 excess deaths is one that needs further exploration.

 "Given the relentless nature of the cuts, and potential link to rising mortality, said Prof McKee, “we ask why is the search for a cause not being pursued with more urgency?”

He finished by warning that raising the “agility” of the NHS’s A&E workforce was unlikely to meet the challenges that the health service faces from the very high level of frail or elderly people going to A&E for urgent care during the winter.

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