Killed by austerity: 120,000 victims BMJ Open reveals

The Conservatives have been accused of “economic murder” for austerity policies which a new study suggests have caused 120,000 deaths.

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The medical journal BMJ Open found that there were 45,000 more deaths in the first four years of Tory-led government than would have been expected if funding had stayed at pre-election levels. This trend could led to 200,000 excess deaths by the end of 2020. Real terms funding for health and social care fell under the Conservative-led Coalition Government since 2010, this “may have produced”, the researchers conclude, the substantial increase in deaths given that mortality rates in the UK had declined steadily from 2001 to 2010.

The past trend has then been reversed sharply with the death rate growing again after austerity came in. From this reversal the authors identified that 45,368 extra deaths occurred between 2010 and 2014, than would have been expected.

If the trend goes on over the next five years – from 2015 to 2020 –  we will see 152,141 ‘economic deaths’, 100 a day. BMJ Open study estimated that on order to return to pre-2010 death rates, levels spending would need to increase by £25.3bn.

The Department of Health commented with a sharp denial: “firm conclusions” cannot be drawn from this work, and independent academics warned the funding figures were “speculative”.

However local councils who have been struggling to fund care with slashed budgets urged the Government to consider the research seriously. 

Less public funds to healthcare, more deaths: reduction of per-capita public health spending between 2001 and 2010 increased by 3.8 per cent a year, but in the first four years of the Conservative led coalition, increases were only 0.41 per cent (figures University College London); this coincided with death rates starting to increase by 0.87 per cent a year from 2010 (reversing the previous trend of decrease by 0.77 per cent a year up to 2010).

The majority of dead were people reliant on social care, BMJ’s paper says: “This is most likely because social care experienced greater relative spending constraints than healthcare.”

Justine de Braeme