Britain: Sleep walking into the valley of death


Glasgow Necropolis; Glasgow is nearly at the bottom for life expectancy for men and women. Pic Credit: creative commons


Britain is literally dying. Ever since the Tory and Liberal Democrat coalition came to power a 50 year improvement in the  death rate year on year went into reverse. Whether it is the weather’s toll on the elderly,  more homelessness or the NHS failing to cope, something has happened and nobody either  notices or wants to know.

The figures are not speculation. They are official and were published in a report from the House of Commons library just before Parliament came back after the Easter recess.

It is however remarkable that this abrupt change in trends has happened ever since successive governments committed themselves to austerity. The period also  coincides with a huge attack on the welfare state – including cuts in working benefits and  a £77 billion reduction in pension payments to  3.9 million women aged between 60 and 65 – soon to be 66 – which is known to have taken its toll.

What the figures show is that: Between 1961 and 2011 both the   crude  death rate( number of deaths per 1000 people) fell every year.

Since 2011, both the number of deaths and the crude death rate have increased. The number of deaths has increased more than the crude death rate, as some of the increase in the number of deaths was due to population growth.

Provisional figures on the number of weekly deaths indicate that winter mortality was higher than usual in early 2015, 2017 and 2018.

Improvements to life expectancy have slowed in recent years for both men and women, but estimates of life expectancy have not fallen compared with earlier periods.
Among the countries and regions of the UK, in the period 2014-16 life expectancy at birth and at age 65 was highest for women in London and for men in the South East. It was lowest for both women and men in Scotland.

This winter Theresa May presided over the largest number of deaths in recent years. The report reveals that during the first twelve weeks of 2018 the figure reached 154,684 and exceeded the 149,978 equivalent figure for  2015 – when it was known there was a serious winter flu epidemic.

This year’s flu epidemic numbers have not been as great as 2015 but the overall death rate is higher.

The report also reveals that life expectancy is still going up – but at a much slower rate than previously predicted and there is a huge difference between those living in London and the South East and much of the rest of the country – with many of the lowest life expectancy in  Scotland and the North. The difference between the metropolitan and the south and the North and Scotland is nearly 10 years.

Highest life expectancy for women ( between 86 and 86.8 years) is in Camden, Kensington and Chelsea, Hart,Westminster and Chiltern ( Chesham in Buckinghamshire).

Lowest life expectancy for women  ( between 78.7 and 79.6) is in West Dumbartonshire, Glasgow, Manchester, Blackpool, Middlesbrough, North Lanarkshire and Dundee.

For men the highest rates ( from 83.7 to 82.5) are Kensington and Chelsea,East Dorset, Chiltern,Hart and Harrow.

The lowest rates  for men  ( from 73.4 to 75.4) are Glasgow, Blackpool, Dundee, West Dunbartonshire and North Lanarkshire).

This disclosure suggests that since 2011 the country has been going into reverse and I don’t believe this is a coincidence. Nasty sharp government  policies are literally taking their toll.


The next NHS scandal: Taking cash from the deprived and handing it to the affluent

Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group- the biggest loser of NHS funds in England

Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group- the biggest loser of NHS funds in England

Next April NHS England plans to take away money from some of the most deprived parts of the country and give it to areas that are the most affluent.
An arcane formula that decides how much your local NHS clinical commissioning body has to spend on you is expected to be changed by removing a weighting that automatically gives a bit of extra cash to areas of social deprivation. It will also mean that less money will go to areas where people die younger and more to areas where people live longer.
I am indebted to research by the Royal College of Nursing who have recalculated the effect of the change and I have already written about it for Tribune Magazine.
The political implications of this change- just over a year before the next general election are enormous. While NHS England is obviously not a branch of Conservative Central Office, its decisions will be remarkably helpful to the coalition government.
Without spending an extra penny it will appear that there is more spending on the NHS in many Conservative and Liberal Democrat marginals by election day and far less spending in many Labour strongholds where there is more social deprivation.
As the table illustrates the changes at the top and bottom are going to be dramatic.
Losers and Gainers; Health spending per head

Losers and Gainers; Health spending per head

Translate this into Westminster politics this means extra help for Tory and Liberal Democrat seats in the south. Gainers include Tory strongholds in Royal Windsor, Ascot and Maidenhead – the latter the seat held by Theresa May, the home secretary; South East Hampshire, Eastbourne, Hailsham and Seaford ( Liberal Democrat seats); the West Sussex coast, Gosport and Fareham and Newbury.
Most useful is Reading North and West, which includes a Tory marginal, and has an extra £98 per person to spend; Dorset (£89) which is both a Liberal Democrat and Tory area, and South Gloucestershire, part of the Cotswolds, which gains £86.
While the losers with the exception of Carlisle ( a Labour Tory marginal with a 853 Tory majority) are all Labour.Worst affected will be Sunderland which will lose health care spending worth £146 per person. Nearly equally badly affected will be South Tyneside, Newcastle West and Gateshead.
Also if you take the latest Office of National Statistics life expectancy figures you will live much longer in Dorset than in Blackpool.
In 2009–11, male life expectancy at birth was highest in East Dorset (83.0 years); 9.2 years
higher than in Blackpool, which had the lowest figure (73.8 years).
• For females, life expectancy at birth was also highest in East Dorset at 86.4 years and lowest in
Manchester where females could expect to live for 79.3 years.
• According to 2009–11 mortality rates, approximately 91% of baby boys and 94% of girls in East
Dorset at birth will reach their 65th birthday. The comparable figures were 77% and 86% in
Blackpool and Manchester respectively.
No wonder the RCN is furious. As Glenn Turp, regional director for the RCN Northern region says: “The North East and Cumbria suffers from some of the worst health inequalities in the country. NHS England should be aiming to reduce inequalities in health outcomes, not make them worse.
“Given the size of health inequalities in this region, I believe that NHS England should actually be increasing funds to the areas with the worst outcomes. However, NHS England’s own data shows these proposals will do the opposite.”
Of course this figures are not yet in stone. But taken together with welfare cuts, big drops in the standard of living for the majority,and slashing support for the disabled – NHS England is merely helping the wealthy and rich in Windsor, Maidenhead and Hampshire villages get better NHS services all paid by the taxpayer at the expense of a Sunderland council tenant. All helping the coalition win the next general election.