Thousands of unexplained and unexpected deaths among elderly revealed in leaked Government analysis

Labour calls for “urgent investigation” amid fears more old people are dying because of cuts to public funding

A leaked report has revealed that thousands more elderly people died in the past year than the Government had expected, particularly in poorer areas of the country.

Labour called for an “urgent investigation” into the findings, and said the Coalition needs to “be honest” about whether cuts to social care budgets over the past three years have contributed to the spike in mortality rates.

The increase in deaths has been most striking amongst women aged 85 and over, and that rise is the driving force behind alarming statistics which suggest around 600 more people than expected are dying every week, the analysis revealed.

The document, made public by the Health Service Journal, reveals that number-crunchers at Public Health England have been “tracking the mortality summaries to determine if last year’s unwelcome increase in mortality in older age may be continuing.”

The report found that there has been, “if anything, a further deterioration in mortality”.

In a letter to the health secretary Jeremy Hunt, seen by The Independent, Mr Burnham has called for an “urgent” investigation into the figures.

Official projections estimated there would be around 455,000 deaths in England between the summers of 2012 and 2013. The actual number was almost 25,000 greater than that, an increase of around 5 per cent on top of Office of National Statistics expectations.

The research also broke down the numbers to look specifically at the so-called “Spearhead authorities” – the areas of the country which fare poorest for life expectancy and mortality rates.

It noted that: “Worryingly, female 75-and-over mortality trends appear to have been worse in the Spearhead areas.” There was even a clearly-observable tailing-off of life expectancy in these areas.

Although the reason for the increase remains unknown, some experts have already suggested that cuts to local government social care budgets may be to blame.

Mr Burnham writes: “As you will be aware, the Government has made significant cuts to local authority budgets that pay for social care, which have seen £1.8 billion taken on out of adult social care since 2010, and it is clear that families need immediate action to improve the care system. Are you satisfied that all social care departments have sufficient funding to prevent older people being placed at serious risk?”

Public Health England acknowledged it had carried out the analysis, and in a recent report, which it did publish, it noted the severity of influenza and other viruses over the most recent winter, and observed: “The number of deaths during 2012/13 was high.”

But it could not yet offer a definitive explanation as to why mortality rates rose across the board. A spokesperson for 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.”

They added that weekly rates are currently down to within levels expected for this time of year.

Speaking to the Health Service Journal, professor of human geography Danny Dorling said he believed the recent cuts could be to blame for the increase in deaths among the elderly.

He said: “Elevated mortality amongst the elderly is often about people dying two or five years earlier than would be expected given recent rates.

“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 rise 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?”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Designer / Design Director

£38000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This B2B content marketing agen...

Austen Lloyd: Law Costs HOD - Southampton

£50000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: An outstanding new...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn