17th February 2017
The study says there was an “unprecedented” rise in mortality in 2015 – the biggest in almost 50 years, with almost 30,000 excess deaths.
They ruled out data errors, cold weather and flu as the main causes.
A particularly large spike was seen in January as all markers for NHS performance “worsened markedly”.
These included ambulance call times below target, increased waiting times at AE, higher staff absence rates and increased waiting times for tests and consultant-led care
The reason may have been the “relentless cuts” to health and social care budgets, according to the research – published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.
In 2015, the research says, “long-term decline in mortality in England and Wales has reversed, with approximately 30,000 extra deaths compared to what would be expected of the average age-specific death rates in 2006 to 2014”.
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University of Oxford carried out the research and concluded that without “urgent intervention” the increases in mortality could continue.
The report comes a week after figures showed the NHS in England was performing at its worst-ever recorded level against targets for AE, cancer and trolley waits.
Charity Age UK have also warned of a “total collapse” in social care for the elderly.
The report says that, since the 2010 election, the impact of cuts 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 further reductions in social care spending.”
It adds: “With an ageing population, the NHS is ever more dependent on a well-functioning social care system.
“Yet, social care has also faced severe cuts, with a 17% decrease in spending for older people since 2009, whilst the number of people aged 85 years and over has increased by almost 9%.”
The authors conclude: “The possibility that the cuts to health and social care are implicated in almost 30,000 excess deaths is one that needs further exploration.”
A Department of Health spokesperson called the report “a triumph of personal bias over research”.
They said: “Every year there is significant variation in reported excess deaths, and in the year following this study they fell by nearly 20,000, undermining any link between pressure on the NHS and the number of deaths.
“Moreover, to blame an increase in a single year on ‘cuts’ to the NHS budget is arithmetically impossible given that the budget rose by almost £15bn between 2009-10 and 2014-15.”
A Welsh Government spokeswoman said it was “unhelpful” to consider the Welsh and English systems together as “there have been no cuts to health and social services in Wales”.