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Low healthcare spending linked to 'substantial mortality gap'

Changes in nurse numbers may be the ‘critical factor’ in nearly 120,000 excess deaths in England, reveals a new study

Changes in nurse numbers may be the critical factor in nearly 120,000 excess deaths in England, reveals a new study published in BMJ Open .

In an analysis of healthcare spending and its impact on death rates, researchers found lower spend on health and social care was associated with a substantial mortality gap.

They warned that over-60s and care home residents were most at risk and said changing numbers of hospital and community nurses were the most salient factors in associations found between spend and care home deaths.

From 2001-10 nurse numbers rose by an average of 1.61% every year, but from 2010-14 they rose by just 0.07% 20 times lower than in the previous decade.

RCN chief executive Janet Davies said the study offered yet more evidence to link the

Changes in nurse numbers may be the ‘critical factor’ in nearly 120,000 excess deaths in England, reveals a new study published in BMJ Open.

In an analysis of healthcare spending and its impact on death rates, researchers found lower spend on health and social care was ‘associated with a substantial mortality gap.’


Picture: iStock

They warned that over-60s and care home residents were most at risk and said changing numbers of hospital and community nurses were ‘the most salient factors’ in associations found between spend and care home deaths.

From 2001-10 nurse numbers rose by an average of 1.61% every year, but from 2010-14 they rose by just 0.07% – 20 times lower than in the previous decade.

RCN chief executive Janet Davies said the study offered ‘yet more evidence’ to link the current shortage of nurses with increased patient mortality and called for government action.

Ms Davies said: ‘Despite years of warnings, all parts of the NHS and social care system do not have enough nurses, and people, particularly vulnerable and older individuals, are paying the highest price.

‘[Patients] stand a better chance of recovery and longer, healthier lives when cared for by degree-trained nurses.

‘Ministers cannot ignore further evidence on the risks of these shortages.’

Government has allowed 'nursing on the cheap'

She added that for too long, government had allowed ‘nursing on the cheap’ and said it must redouble efforts to recruit more nurses.

The study authors estimated that there were around 120,000 excess deaths related to public spending cuts between 2010-17 and said there could be an additional toll of up to 100 deaths every day from now on in.

They warned an annual cash injection of £6.3 billion was needed to close the gap and said the over-60s and care home residents were most at risk.

Researchers found

  • Between 2001-10, deaths in England fell by an average of 0.77% every year, but rose by an average of 0.87% every year between 2011-14.
  • Every £10 drop in spend per head on social care was associated with five extra care home deaths per 100,000 of the population.
  • In 2010-14, the NHS in England had only had a real term annual increase in government funding of 1.3%, despite rising patient demand and healthcare costs.
  • Real-term spend on social care fell by 1.19% every year in the same period.
  • This fall in spending coincided with a significant projected increase in the numbers of over 85s – those most likely to need social care – from 1.6 million in 2015 to 1.8 million in 2020.

 

The Local Government Association’s Community Well-being Board chairman Izzi Seccombe urged government to review the evidence from the analysis.

Councillor Seccombe said: ‘If correct, it would clearly reinforce the desperate and urgent need to properly fund social care.

‘Genuinely new government money is now the only way to protect the services caring for elderly and disabled people.

‘This is essential if we are to ensure people can live independent, fulfilling lives, as well as alleviating the pressures on the NHS.’


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