Skip to content


Austerity cuts to the NHS, public health and social services have killed tens of thousands more people in England than expected, according to the largest study of its kind.

Researchers who analyzed the joint impact of cuts to health care, public health and social services since 2010 found that even over the next four years, spending cuts were linked to 57,550 more deaths than planned. The results, worse than previously thought, were revealed in the BMJ Open journal.

York University research also found that a slowdown in improvement in life expectancy coincided with drastic cuts by the government in funding for health and social services after David took office. Cameron ten years ago.

“Restrictions on growth in health and social care spending during ‘austerity’ have been associated with tens of thousands more deaths than would have been seen if pre-austerity spending growth had been sustained “said Professor Karl Claxton of the Center for Health Economics at the University of York.

“Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that the slowdown in the rate of improvement in life expectancy in England and Wales since 2010 is attributable to spending constraints in the health and social services sectors. “

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, called the results shocking and said they were proof that the government’s austerity campaign had worsened health inequalities across the country.

“This is a devastating verdict on a decade of conservative austerity in healthcare,” he said. “The ‘race to the top’ test will be for ministers to properly fund social care and public health to tackle these inequalities now.”

Separate research from Imperial College London, published in the journal Lancet Public Health, found that life expectancy in many communities in England was declining even before the pandemic.

While life expectancy increased in most places during the first decade of the millennium, from 2010 in some areas it began to decline. By 2014, this deterioration had accelerated, the researchers found, with the life expectancy of women declining in nearly one in five communities (18.7%) and men in one in nine (11.5%). ).

The most affected areas were generally in the urban areas of the north. They include Blackpool, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle.

Researchers have made various attempts to calculate the real impact of Cameron’s austerity measures. But the University of York study is the first to jointly analyze the effect of the significant slowdown in NHS, public health and social care spending on death rates in England.

The researchers said real social spending increased 2.2% per capita of the population between 2001-02 and 2009-10, but fell 1.57% between 2010-11 and 2014-15. The loss of social care funding caused an additional 23,662 deaths, according to the results.

Real health expenditure per capita increased by 3.82% between 2001-02 and 2009-10, but only 0.41% between 2010-11 and 2014-15. Cuts in healthcare spending between 2010-11 and 2014-15 resulted in an additional 33,888 deaths, the researchers calculated.

In total, the study suggested that constraints on health and social care spending during this period of austerity were associated with 57,550 more deaths through 2014 than would have been expected had funding remained. at pre-2010 levels.

David Finch, deputy director of healthy lives at the Foundation for Health think tank, said the study showed why ministers must now put health “at the forefront” of their upgrading agenda.

Even before Covid, he said, there was “an extremely worrying pattern of blocking life expectancy, especially in the poorest parts of the country.” The pandemic had “since exposed the tragic consequences of underlying ill health,” he said.

“As we plan for the recovery from a pandemic, there is an urgent need to ensure that we do not repeat the mistakes made in recovering from the financial crisis. This includes tackling the NHS care backlog and fixing social care, but also ensuring the safety of the many families who are struggling financially. Policies such as reducing universal credit run counter to this goal, ”said Finch.

“To meet the scale of this challenge, the government must put improving health at the forefront of all major policies, including the race to the top. It will require action on everything from housing and jobs to education and transport. “

Boris Johnson last month pledged a cash injection of £ 12 billion a year to help the NHS catch up after the pandemic and revamp social care. Household budgets will suffer from next April when employees’ social contributions increase by 1.25% to finance the increase in funding.

The Ministry of Health and Social Affairs has been approached for comment.