UK economic policies likely to cause many more deaths than Covid, claims Scottish academic

The UK Government’s economic policies are “likely” to have caused a “great many more deaths” than the Covid-19 pandemic, an academic has claimed.

Researchers said their “not only shocking, but shameful” statistics showed almost 335,000 more deaths than expected were recorded across Scotland, England and Wales over an eight-year period.

Experts at Glasgow University and the Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH) had looked at data on deaths in the three countries over the period 2012 to 2019.

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Ruth Dundas, a professor of social epidemiology at the University of Glasgow and one of the authors of the report, said: “This study shows that in the UK a great many more deaths are likely to have been caused by UK Government economic policy than by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

An immunisation staff nurse gives a does of the Pfizer vaccine to patient John Shepherd from Camelon. Picture: Michael Gillen
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Her comments came as the report said there was now a “clear and urgent need … for such harmful policies to be reversed”. The authors urged the UK Government to “implement measures to protect the most vulnerable in society”.

The study, published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, noted there were 334,327 excess deaths over the expected number in Scotland, England and Wales over the period.

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This included 237,855 excess deaths amongst males in England and Wales, with a further 12,735 excess deaths recorded amongst men in Scotland.

Amongst women there were 77,173 excess deaths in England and Wales, as well as 6,564 in Scotland.

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The research was carried out amid “a stalling of improvement overall” in mortality rates, with increasing death rates among the poorest having been observed across the UK since the early 2010s.

Statistical analysis showed previously improving mortality trends had changed around the period 2011 to 2013 in both Scotland and England – with this occurring following the election of the Conservatives into Number 10 in 2010.

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The study found among those living in the 20 per cent most deprived areas of Scotland, rates of premature death increased by 6-7 per cent among males and females, with this coming after previous decreases of 10-20 per cent.

Dr David Walsh, the lead author of the paper and public health programme manager at the GCPH, said: “These figures are not only shocking, but shameful.”

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He added: “We must remember that these are more than just statistics. They represent hundreds of thousands of people whose lives have been cut short, and hundreds of thousands of families who have had to deal with the grief and aftermath of those deaths.

“The tragic thing is that these deaths did not have to happen. In the words of the United Nations, in a society as wealthy as the UK, ‘poverty is a political choice’.”

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Prime Minister Liz Truss and her Cabinet allies have so far declined to say whether welfare payments will be increased in line with soaring inflation.

Scottish health secretary Humza Yousaf said: “This is a shocking finding which underlines the true human cost of austerity and reinforces the urgent need for the UK Government to change course from its current budgetary proposals.”

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