The landmark study by the British Medical Journal examines the effects reduced health and social care spending are having on mortality rates.
The study, titled ‘Effects of health and social care spending constraints on mortality in England: a time trend analysis‘ reveals that austerity measures between 2010 and 2014 were associated with an estimated 45,000 additional deaths with this figure increasing to 120,000 in the subsequent years.
Funding for health and social care fell under the Conservative-Lib Dem Coalition Government in 2010 and researchers conclude this “may have produced” the substantial increase in deaths.
The research demonstrated that mortality rates in the UK declined steadily from 2001 to 2010, however, this reversed sharply after austerity measures were introduced.
Experts speculate that if we continue with current cuts we could see a rise to nearly 200,000 excess deaths by the end of 2020.
NHS Providers warned, only last week, that nurses were already ‘working on the edge of safety’ and ongoing cuts would compromise patient care further.
The news comes on weeks after The Royal College of Nursing called for an urgent patient safety review after staff raised concerns over the care within the national health service.
Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, responding to research published in the BMJ on nurse numbers and excess deaths in NHS and social care, said:
“This is yet more evidence that links the current shortage of nurses with increased patient mortality. Despite years of warnings, all parts of the NHS and social care system do not have enough nurses and people, particularly vulnerable and older individuals, are paying the highest price. They stand a better chance of recovery and longer, healthier lives when cared for by degree-trained nurses.
“For too long, the Government has allowed nursing on the cheap. Hospital wards and care homes alike increasingly rely on unregistered healthcare assistants, especially at night. Ministers cannot ignore further evidence on the risks of these shortages.
“The Government must redouble efforts to recruit more nurses. In next week’s Budget, the Chancellor has an opportunity to change course by investing in health and care services and the professionals who work in them.”
The study concludes that if we are to return to pre-2010 mortality rates spending on health and social care would need to increase by £25.3bn.
The researchers admitted that while the study cannot prove cause and effect, it did find a chronological correlation, with changes in spending followed by changes in mortality.