Latest post on Left Futures

Is austerity already killing people?

In early 1953 something happened which is uncannily similar to what is happening today. In the 4 months December 1952 to March 1953 when Greater London was shrouded in thick smog, some 12,000 people died. In 1 week alone 4,703 died, more than 2.5 times the number who died in the same week the previous year. When this impact of air pollution was raised in Parliament, Macmillan, the housing minister, averse to spending more on smokeless fuel for the poor at a time of austerity, dodged the question by setting up an official government inquiry. This duly, and very conveniently for the government, reported that influenza had caused all the excess winter deaths.

Fast forward to 2012. Public Health England reported that death rates, already unusually high during 2012, continues to rise in 2013. The report states that the number of excess deaths in England in 2012-3 had been 23,400 (5%) above ONS expectations. When this was leaked, the Public Health England official with the Orwellian title of ‘chief knowledge officer’ put out a public statement that “the temporal coincidence with influenza across the UK and Europe suggests that influenza has contributed significantly”, and he added that it was “a major explanatory factor”.

The ONS did their own study and they disputed that the rising death rates among the elderly were due to the cold because they noted that in the exceptionally cold winter of 2009-10 the number of excess winter deaths had been “similar to years with mild winters”. So it is not so much the cold as the extent to which people can afford to heat their homes or how much they are visited by a carer to keep an eye on their needs, which really matters. The ONS report concluded that in 2012-3 there had been a 29% increase in deaths compared with 15% the previous winter, with 31,000 more people dying than the average for non-winter months, especially those over 75 years. This is now a bigger number of excess deaths than in the great smog of 1952-3. What does remain the same however is the official inactivity.

It is clear that ‘flu was not the main cause since the ONS noted that “influenza activity in 2012-3 was relatively low”. But the excess deaths were so great that the ONS announced a 2% decline in life expectancy over age 65. So what might be causing it? What was also happening in 2012-3 was an unprecedented programme of cuts (up to 40%) to local authorities as well as cutbacks to numerous social support schemes, housing and welfare payments. The number of social care recipients fell by 23% from 1.2m in 2010 to 928,000 in 2013. In addition, reduced visits by social services, forced home moves due to cuts, and less medical attention have all increased unexpected deaths among the elderly. Are we once again, as in 1952-3, faced with patrician ministers regarding rising deaths among the elderly as a ‘price worth paying’ to balance the books and make Britain great again to win that ‘global race’?

One Comment

  1. Robert says:

    The WCA ATOS medical has killed about 3800 people who ended their lives, I suspect labour and the Tories will be saying that’s working ok then, after all 3800 less to claim benefits.

© 2022 Left Futures | Powered by WordPress | theme originated from PrimePress by Ravi Varma