Evidence proves decade of austerity has done serious harm to our health

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Cast-iron evidence from Professor Sir Michael Marmot proves decade of austerity has done serious harm to the nation’s health and well-being. Marmot has now published the latest evidence that a decade of Conservative Government policy has caused thousands of deaths, an increase in child poverty, a reduction in life expectancy for women in the most forgotten areas of the country, in-work poverty and an undeniable growth in inequality: and, as a direct result, preventable deaths are highest in some of the most deprived areas.

Notably, the largest decrease in life expectancy and shortest lifespan of healthy years are found in the populations of the most deprived 10 percent of areas in the North East of England. (Health Equity in England: The Marmot Review 10 Years On published by the Institute of Health Equity)

Austerity kills the vulnerable, shortens healthy lives and undermines the health of children. It does so through the cumulative impact of: the decimation of local authority funding from government – resulting in dramatic loss of publicly funded early years resources like Sure Start, the extreme pressures on school budgets, a savaging of personal social care funding; and of course the undermining of the NHS – the last recourse for people damaged in mental and physical health from this last decade of oppressive living conditions – through drastic cumulative underfunding, fragmentation of the national structure and the widening of encroaching privatisation.

As has begun to be reported across some sections of the media, after 100 years of steady improvement, the narrative of progress is starting to unwind – with women and the poor hardest hit. Damning revelation after damning revelation of Conservative Party rule mounts up fast. For example, the report shows: infant mortality in the most deprived areas is now 35.9 percent higher higher than the England average and the proportion of children living in poverty increased by eight percent in England to over four million.

Michael Marmot has previously evidenced the impact of social inequality on health – ‘the social determinants of the health’. His report in 2010 Fair Society, Healthy Lives made six recommendations. All six visions (see box) have been reversed over the decade to now.

Marmot’s 2010 recommendations:

  • Give every child the best start in life.
  • Enable all children, young people and adults to maximise their capabilities and have control over their lives.
  • Create fair employment and good work for all.
  • Ensure a healthy standard of living for all.
  • Create and develop healthy and sustainable places and communities.
  • Strengthen the role and impact of ill health prevention.
Professor Sir Michael Marmot author of the damning report

In February 2019, Marmot spoke about the intentions behind his follow up research:

Last year we pointed out that life expectancy had stopped increasing. Something that had gone on for more than 90 years, an increase of about 1 year every 4 years. In 2011 it slowed down nearly to a halt. Life expectancy as a measure of health, tells us a great deal about how we are doing as a society, and the inequalities in health tell us even more about society. So, if life expectancy has stopped improving and inequalities are widening, it's really urgent to ask what's going on? What's going wrong and what can we do about it?

Dr Jennifer Dixon (CEO Health Foundation who supported Marmot’s research) explained the impact on health of social and economic factors:

Healthcare probably has far less influence over people's health than other factors, such as your life experience, such as whether you have a good job, whether you are living in a crime free neighbourhood. Whether you've got good housing. Whether you are educated well and whether you have a supportive and viable community.

Men’s life expectancy: 9 yrs less in Blackpool (74) than Kensington (83); 16-yr gap in deprived parts of Stockton-on-Tees and Kensington & Chelsea

Male life expectancy at birth and inequalities in life expectancy by local authority

Life expectancy for women: seven-year gap between Manchester (79) and Kensington & Chelsea (86)

Female life expectancy at birth and inequalities in life expectancy by local authority

The findings published in the Marmot review are shocking and confirm the powerful build-up in evidence published since 2017 (see box) of accelerating harm being done to the health of Britain’s population. The effects of government policy have the greatest impact on the poorest and most vulnerable sections of our society and this cannot be disguised any longer.

Avoidable deaths and misery attributable to government policy

More detailed analysis can be found on the Marmot Review 10 Years On, from the Institute of Health Inequality, with their  executive summary here  and the full report here

 

Summary of Key Findings

  • U.K. is becoming an increasingly unequal society in terms of health: the report shows how health is closely linked to social determinants
  • Since 2010 life expectancy in England has stalled - the more deprived the area, the shorter the life expectancy
  • The slowdown in life expectancy increase cannot be attributed to severe winters, with more than 80 percent of the slowdown, between 2011 and 2019, resulting from social determinants not winter weather of 'flu
  • Marked regional differences in life expectancy; particularly bad among people living in more deprived areas in the most deprived 10 percent of neighbourhoods in the North East
  • Women in the most deprived areas have been hit hardest with life expectancy falling by 0.3 years in the most deprived areas between the 2010-12 period and the 2016-18 period
  • The amount of time people spend in poor health has increased across England since 2010

 

It's essential fightback and reverse this entirely avoidable pattern.

Our nation-wide protest at the worst-ever NHS ‘Winter Crisis’ has taken place in over 20 areas of the country between 13-29 February. We have highlighted the growing impact of government policy, by denuding the NHS and local government of the funds needed to look after our population.

Over the next five years, we will scrutinise every ‘promise’ on the NHS made by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock and expose every claim designed to mislead the public. We hold the Prime Minister and his government to account for every death and every patient’s health damaged by their policies when they fail to deliver the safe and effective public health service the population needs.

Join us, share information with us - and get involved with our local campaigns.

KONP Co-Chair, Dr Tony O’Sullivan


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