Mortality rate triggers major concerns

  • Rise in mortality rate in older people has raised major concerns

    The Office for National Statistics publishes a weekly summary of provisional death registrations in England and Wales, which has revealed a rise in mortality.

    A recent report by Public Health England has revealed that mortality among older people has been unexpectedly increasing since the beginning of 2012. Health Service Journal (HSJ) has shared this information, which has led Labour to call for an investigation into this rise in deaths of older people.

    Official figures show 23,400 more deaths of older people than expected in 18 months, with many in poorest parts of country. Shadow health secretary, Andy Burnham, has asked for an urgent response to the data by asking Jeremy Hunt to commission an urgent investigation into the causes of this increase in mortality since 2012.

    Burnham said:

    These figures raise major concerns about deteriorating levels of care and support for older people, and demand an urgent response from the government. Labour has been warning for some time about the collapse of social care and the growing number of older people left alone and at risk. We now need to see action from the government. This year we revealed a shocking 66% increase in people over 90 going into A&E in blue-light ambulances - a sure sign of something going seriously wrong in the way we care for older people.

    The HSJ information compiled by Tom Hennell has reported that when focusing on mortality over 75, observations reveal rapidly increasing mortality for both males and females, presenting throughout 2012, and continuing into 2013. Female 12-month mortality over 75 is currently higher than in any year since 2009; and April 2013 saw a particularly sharp increase.

    Below is a chart from the HSJ report showing the weekly provisional death counts in England:

      Danny Dorling, Professor of Human Geography at Sheffield University is concerned whether these numbers will continue to rise. He has said the following:

    Elevated mortality amongst the elderly... is often about people dying two or five years earlier than would be expected given recent rates. Often [they are] people who are quite ill to begin with. It is possible that cuts or freezes to services have a particular bad effect on this group - even cuts and freezes that might appear very minor - because the group is so vulnerable. Increased anxiety resulting from knowing you might have to move home or even have no home has long been known to be very damaging for the health of very elderly people. The timing of this recent rising in mortality coincides with the crisis in the funding of a large number of care homes.

    It is worth thinking... who gets left a little longer in A&E than they were left when there was funding growing year on year. Who is most neglected when the carer visiting them has only 15 minutes when they used to have 30?

    Looking into the trend, a spokesperson from Public Health England said:

    We are currently undertaking further work to understand why there was a rise in mortality rates during the earlier months of this year and the causes behind this.

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