Tory austerity plunges England into a ‘lost decade’ as life expectancy flattens

Tory austerity has helped plunge England into a "lost decade" as child poverty surges and rises in life expectancy "grind to a halt", a university Professor has declared.

Professor Sir Michael Marmot issued a major review today warning the rise in life expectancy had "slowed dramatically" since 2010.

Sir Michael – who has said there is a "strong" argument for higher tax on the rich – warned health inequalities are widening between the most and least deprived parts of England.

He said: "From the beginning of the 20th century, England experienced continuous improvements in life expectancy. But from 2011 these improvements slowed dramatically, almost grinding to a halt."

He added: "England has lost a decade.

"Pretty much – with a few dips and bounces – life expectancy improved about one year every four years from the end of the 19th century until 2010, then it slowed down dramatically.

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"If health has stopped improving, that means society has stopped improving and if health inequalities continue and in fact increase, that means inequalities in society have been increasing."

Prof Marmot said while poverty was an issue, austerity had taken its toll on equity and health.

He added: "Austerity has taken a significant toll on equity and health and it is likely to continue to do so.

"If you ask me if that is the reason for the worsening health picture, I'd say it is highly likely that is responsible for the life expectancy flatlining, people's health deteriorating and the widening of health inequalities."

The report, Health Equity In England: The Marmot Review 10 Years On, was commissioned by the Health Foundation charity.

Chief executive Dr Jennifer Dixon said: "We urgently need a new national health inequalities strategy, backed by investment in the factors that have the most powerful impact on health, such as early years and youth services, housing, education, social security and good quality work."

The report found life expectancy in men had risen by about half a year from 79.01 in 2010-12 to 79.56 in 2016-18.

In women it rose by about a third of a year from 82.83 to 83.18 during the same period.

Prof Marmot said this compared to life expectancy generally improving by about one year every four years for a century up until 2010.

And there are huge differences across the country.

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The difference in life expectancy at birth between the least and most deprived deciles was 9.5 years for men and 7.7 years for women in 2016-18.

That has risen from 9.1 and 6.8 respectively in 2010-12, the report added.

For some more deprived groups outside London, life expectancy has even fallen, the report said.

"The slowdown in life expectancy is not down to exceptionally cold winters or virulent flu, and cannot be attributed solely to problems with the NHS or social care – although declining funding relative to need in each sector will undoubtedly have played a role," it said.

"The increase in health inequalities in England points to social and economic conditions, many of which have shown increased inequalities, or deterioration since 2010."

Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said: "This is a devastating verdict on 10 years of austerity under the Conservatives, and demands urgent action from Boris Johnson.

"There is no greater social injustice than people dying sooner because of poverty and austerity. Yet not only is life expectancy stalling for the first time in more than 100 years, shockingly it is actually declining for the poorest 10% of women."

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "There is still much more to do, and our bold prevention agenda, record £33.9 billion a year investment in the NHS, and world-leading plans to improve children's health will help ensure every person can lead a long and healthy life."

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