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Cuts and NHS crisis result in 'excess' elderly deaths - end pensioner poverty now
Ian Hunter, Derby Socialist Party
The latest figures from the Office of National Statistics reveal that there were 50,100 'excess deaths' in England and Wales in the winter of 2017-18, the highest number since the mid-1970s. The term 'excess deaths' refers to a temporary increase in the normal mortality rate for the population.
In response, Caroline Abrahams, Director of Age UK, stated: "A toxic cocktail of poor housing, high energy prices and ill health can make winter a dangerous time for many older people, and tragically it is the oldest and those who are the most vulnerable who particularly suffer the consequences."
The possible reasons for this huge increase include the prevalence of newer strains of flu and increased numbers of long-term illnesses such as cancer and diabetes.
But also the effects of inadequate social care resources and serious, continued underfunding of the NHS. Last winter saw the largest increase in hospital admissions of patients with flu, and a sharp rise in cases seen by GPs. In the first week of January 2018 the rate of hospital admissions rose by over 50%, and the GP consultation rate rose by 77.5%.
The president of the Society for Acute Medicine, Dr Nick Scriven, doubts the ability of the NHS to cope effectively with the many challenges of "an older, frailer population with increasingly complex medical problems, a lack of funding across health and social care to meet demand and a recruitment crisis."
The National Pensioners Convention has called for the resignation of Energy Minister Claire Perry following the news of increased winter deaths among older people.
The 50,100 excess deaths translate as approximately 414 a day (17 an hour) for the four winter months December to March. Around 1.4 million older people are estimated to be in a situation of fuel poverty, and almost one in three live in homes with poor heating and insulation.
Currently those aged 65 and over are under constant attack from the Tory government. Too often they are dismissed as a comfortably off baby boomer generation, especially by those seeking to create inter-generational division with younger 'millenials'.
For most of the older generation this spin on the issue is not only divisive but also far from the truth. The state pension increase next year will be 3.25%, less than a penny a day!
In addition there are massive cuts by councils to meals on wheels provision and even pressure from the International Monetary Fund on the government to consider means-testing the state pension.
Cuts, austerity, NHS privatisation, inadequate pensions and a crisis in the care sector have left many elderly people in poverty. Labour councils should be resisting savage cuts to social care, not doing the Tories' dirty work.
The Socialist Party calls for councils to set no-cuts budgets and leading mass campaigns to demand the funds needed. Jeremy Corbyn should pledge now that any council taking this road would have its funding fully restored on the first day of a Labour government.
We demand the end of cuts and reinstatement of funding for public services, a fully-funded NHS, the end of privatisation and a decent pension to end pensioner poverty.
In The Socialist 12 December 2018:
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