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Unexpected rise in deaths among older patients leaves experts guessing over the likely cause

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 29 July 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f4795
  1. Ingrid Torjesen
  1. 1London

Deaths among older people have risen markedly since the beginning of 2012, prompting Public Health England to launch an investigation into what is causing the rise.

Experts are divided over what could have caused the increase in mortality. There is speculation that cuts to the NHS and social care budgets have had a detrimental impact on services for older people and triggered more deaths. But others say that life expectancy may simply be starting to plateau or that the rise could be a natural fluctuation in statistics, perhaps prompted by unusual weather patterns.

The increased deaths are revealed in an internal report prepared by Public Health England using weekly all-cause death registrations data from the Office for National Statistics, which has been seen by the BMJ.

The report stated that in the year to the end of June 2013 there were 23 400 (5%) more deaths than the 455 000 expected. Furthermore, there were 14 200 (3%) more deaths in the first half of 2013 than …

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