The number of deaths recorded in the UK for 2022 reached 695,000, making it the deadliest year since 1918, when Spanish flu was killing millions around the world, and the after effects of the First World War were also taking their toll.
Compared to the rest of Europe, the UK suffered the fourth worst death rate, with the cold statistic of 180.92 deaths per million of the population.
The Times newspaper indicated 50,000 more deaths for 2022 than for 2019.
Excess deaths are worked out as the number of people who died above the five-year average, and this excluded the number of deaths directly from Covid in 2020 which boosted death figures for that year. This trend has continued into 2023. For the week ending April 28th, for example, there were 1,469 excess deaths for England and Wales (during 2020 during the height of the Covid pandemic in April, there were almost 12,000 excess deaths a week).
So why are so many dying? The Covid pandemic killed a large number of the elderly. In theory, the remaining population should be healthier proportionately, with a period where death rates should fall. But this has not happened.
This is partly explained by the fact that the UK population is aging. In addition, it is the most obese in Europe, leading to heart diseases and diabetes. The leading causes of death in 2022 were dementia and Alzheimer’s, predominantly diseases of the elderly.
However, many of the excess deaths are not recorded as to specific causes, and the aging population cannot account for why so many have died over 2022-2023.
The unprecedented heat wave of last year, brought about by climate change, saw temperatures rise to 40.3 Centigrade, with a highest daily minimum temperature of 26.8 C, the highest ever recorded. Heatwaves are connected to higher death rates due to respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
Antonio Gasparrini at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has calculated that there were 948 excess deaths between 17th and 19th July 2022 in England and Wales when temperatures were at their highest. However, this can only account for 12% of non-Covid deaths.
7,000 of the excess deaths last year were linked to diabetes and the charity Diabetes UK showed that its data indicated a 13% rise in excess deaths last year. Its data showed a 13% rise in excess deaths linked to diabetes in England in 2022 with most “not attributable directly to COVID”. It’s got worse since then, with 1,461 excess deaths between January and March, three times higher than for the same period in 2022.
Regular checks for blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar can prevent serious complications for diabetes. These checks should take place eight times a year; however, Diabetes UK found that only 47% of diabetes sufferers received all the eight checks in 2021-22. This means that 1.9 million people did not get essential care. This is proving deadly.
This is just one example of what is happening in treatment for various diseases.
Since 2010, the NHS has lost almost 25,000 hospital beds across the UK, which has fewer beds per 1,000 people than 21 EU countries.
NHS England, according to the health think tank Nuffield Trust, is short of 12,000 hospital doctors and more than 50,000 nurses and midwives.
This has increased waiting times for emergency care and ambulance responses. Ambulances have to wait at hospitals because they cannot transport patients to emergency departments that are full to capacity. This results, for example, in heart attack victims having a lower chance of survival.
The cost-of-living crisis will further aggravate health problems, particularly among those less well-off. Going without proper meals or increasingly resorting to cheap processed food will drive up figures for diabetes, heart problems and other diseases.
Yes, excess death rates have been high in people over 85, but equally excess deaths have been higher among all age groups.
Decades of austerity, a running down of the NHS and social care by both Tories and Labour, aggravated by the Covid pandemic and global warming and now a cost-of-living crisis, shows how deadly the present system is. A study by University College London in 2019 showed that 877,000 deaths had been caused by social inequality for the years between 2003 and 2018. This situation is only deteriorating further.