Intended for healthcare professionals

Observations Body Politic

The curious case of 600 extra deaths a week

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: (Published 09 August 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f5014
  1. Nigel Hawkes, freelance journalist, London
  1. nigel.hawkes1{at}

Nobody knows why mortality has risen so sharply, but the NHS reforms cannot be to blame

Here’s a headline I’m astonished I haven’t already read: “NHS reforms blamed for 600 extra deaths a week.” That’s the number of additional deaths in England and Wales that occurred in the first half of 2013 when compared with the years immediately preceding the Health and Social Care Act. Nobody knows why deaths have risen so sharply, but imperfect knowledge has seldom stood in the way of the critics of that piece of legislation.

The figures are fairly sensational, given the long experience of steadily falling mortality and rising life expectancy. Starting in 2012 and persisting into the middle of this year, deaths have been consistently higher, and by strikingly big margins, than they were in the years 2008 to 2011. Up to 65 years of age there are no changes, but in older age groups there are sharp increases, especially marked in those aged over 85. A summary of the data by Tom Hennell of the Office for National Statistics shows that mortality of women aged over 85 rose by 5% in 2012, and male mortality in the same age group rose by 3%. …

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