Cambridge, UK (BBN) – An extra 120,000 patients have died in the past seven years following cuts to health and social care budgets, a major study has found.
The patients were all over 60 and the majority died in care homes or their own homes, rather than in hospital, reports Daily Mail.
Researchers from Cambridge University likened the cuts to ‘economic murder’ and said local NHS and social care funding means vulnerable patients are not receiving the help they badly need.
They also linked a fall in nurse numbers, particularly to district nurses who work in the community, to the additional deaths.
The study by Cambridge, Oxford and University College London is the first of its kind to look at the effects of funding reductions.
It is based on a computer model which calculated how many deaths should have occurred between 2010 and 2017, based on the number of deaths from 2000 to 2010.
It also predicted that if the current trends continue, there would be another 100 excess deaths a day between now and 2020. Researchers said that, although they could not prove the deaths were caused by the fall in health and social care spending, there was a very strong link.
One of the lead authors, Professor Lawrence King, from Cambridge University, said: ‘It is now very clear that austerity does not promote growth or reduce deficits – it is bad economics, but good class politics.
‘This study shows it is also a public health disaster. It is not an exaggeration to call it economic murder.’
The study, published in the BMJ Open journal, is complicated and the researchers admitted there may be other ‘factors’ behind the increased deaths such as the fact the population is ageing, unhealthy lifestyles and deprivation.
Dr Ben Maruthappu of University College London, senior author of the study, said: ‘While the Government’s investment into social care earlier this year is welcome, it is clear that more must be done, with better modernisation of services, and protection of health and social care funding.’ The research also found that previous rises in life expectancy rates had stalled.
The average woman was living 3.8 months less than previous predictions and the average man 5.2 months less.
Life expectancy rates are 82.9 for women and 79.2 years for men. The findings come amid calls from the medical profession for the Government to substantially increase health and social care funding in next Wednesday’s Budget. A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘As the researchers themselves note, this study cannot be used to draw any firm conclusions about the cause of excess deaths.
‘The NHS is treating more people than ever before and funding is at record levels with an £8billion increase by 2020-21. We’ve also backed adult social care with a £2billion investment, and we have 12,700 more doctors and 10,600 more nurses on our wards since May 2010.’