POLITICS
18/04/2018 19:09 BST | Updated 19/04/2018 08:25 BST

Labour MP Louise Haigh Blasts 'Heartbreaking' Life Expectancy Drop For Women

Life expectancy of poorest girls in England has fallen for first time since the 1920s.

Labour MP Louise Haigh has called a drop in life expectancy for women living in deprived towns a “national shame” during a debate in Parliament. 

ONS data published in March showed life expectancy for the poorest girls in England had fallen for the first time on record since the 1920s.

The poorest 10% of girls had a life expectancy of 78 years and 10 months - a fall of two months. There had had been a rise of three months for the wealthiest 10% of girls, however, who were expected to live 86 years and two months. 

Compared to previous figures released in 2015, there had been a decrease of almost a whole year in life expectancy in some areas - such as Hartlepool and Derbyrshire’s Amber Valley - and people living in former mining/seaside towns and rural areas were hardest-hit. 

Speaking during a debate in Westminster Hall, Haigh blamed austerity for life expectancy plummeting as she called the figures “heartbreaking”. 

But Tory MPs told the debate Italy, Spain, France and Germany, some of which spend greater levels of GDP on healthcare than the UK, were also witnessing falls in life expectancy.  

She told MPs: “We know that increased mortality, flat-lining life expectancy and falling healthy life expectancy are not happening in a vacuum. While life expectancy cannot continue to increase forever – it is the sudden change that looks unnatural.

“It is unavoidable to observe that this coincides with the era of austerity and it is simply not conceivable that the state of our public realm and of our NHS has nothing at all to do with it.

She went on to claim the “sorry state” of social care was having an impact, with many councils struggling to provide beds for elderly people reliant on the state for care. 

“So for the first time, health inequality is rising because the most deprived are suffering with poor health,” she said. 

“This cohort, relying more than any other on a functioning, effective compassionate state which provides quality support have been badly let down in recent years. 

“It should be a source of national shame that elderly women, in some of the most deprived parts of our country, are living in isolation, not properly cared for and are losing their lives because the state has not supported them.” 

She added that research in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) revealed 10,000 more people died earlier than expected in the first seven weeks of 2018 than in the same period in 2017.

Haigh added: “The study finds there was no external factor which might have caused the 11% rise – no unusual cold snap, natural disaster or flu outbreak, outside normal expectations.

“In the UK official projections have now been altered because of the tens of thousands of people who have died earlier than expected. If you subtract the latest ONS figures from the figures published two years ago, you can see that a further one million earlier deaths are now projected in the next forty years

Haigh called for an inquiry and criticised Public Health England for attributing the 10,000 increase in deaths to an outbreak of flu among the elderly. She also called for an inquiry.  

“The evidence clearly suggests that the health and wellbeing of our communities has been compromised,” she said. “How anyone could view this evidence and be left in any doubt that austerity has increased mortality is beyond me.” 

Fellow Labour MP Sharon Hodgson said life expectancy could continue to improve, with Nordic countries, Japan and Hong  Kong all enjoying higher and improving life expectancy levels. 

Sharon: “The improvement [in life expectancy] began to stall in 2011 when the coalition government came into office and this can’t be just a coincidence.

“For the first time in well over a century, the health of people of England and Wales has stopped improving and has flatlined every since.” 

Tory MP Andrew Selous said falls in life expectancy were part of a “complex issue” and mental health and quality of life should be considered alongside deprivation as factors.

Italy, Spain, France and Germany, some of which spend greater levels of GDP on healthcare, were seeing similar falls in life expectancy, he said.  

Health minister Jackie Doyle Price added: “It’s important to note this dip in life expectancy is not unique to the UK, we have seen it elsewhere in Europe.”