A surge in deaths across the UK in the first part of the year has reportedly been linked to major cuts facing the NHS.
A report by experts from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Oxford University has identified a 12.5 percent spike in mortality rates across the first seven weeks of the year.
The huge rise represents the deaths of 10,375 extra people.
One of the authors has called for an urgent investigation and singled out government ‘austerity policies’ as a possible cause – with the NHS axing 50,000 scheduled treatment as hospitals strained under a spike in admissions.
If the mortality rate continues to rise, it is expected that overall life expectancy will begin to reverse for the first time since the Second World War.
The report, published in the British Medical Journal, states: ‘We and others have already called for an urgent investigation by the House of Commons health select committee. We did this because the Department of Health and Social Care is not taking the slowdown in improvements in mortality seriously.
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‘The figures for this year make the case for an investigation both stronger and more urgent with each passing day.’
Danny Dorling, the co-author of the study, told the Daily Mirror: ‘The key thing to remember is we had an NHS in crisis like never before. Austerity policies are the most likely cause of the slowing of life expectancy rises.’
Despite the criticism, the Department for Health insists that NHS funding remains a key priority.
A spokesperson told the Daily Mirror: ‘We are committed to helping people live long and healthy lives, which is why the NHS was given top priority in the autumn budget.We will consider this and other new research.”