Life expectancy is falling for the first time in over a century, driven by growing social inequality and a decade of ideological Conservative austerity.
Sir Michael Marmot, the director of University College London’s Health Equity Institute, specifically cited government policy as a driver of worsening health and shorter lives for people in the UK.
“England is faltering,” says Marmot. “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.”
His report, Health Equity In England: The Marmot Review 10 Years On, lays out in excoriating detail how the government’s failure to address social injustice has led to a less healthy society.
“When a society is flourishing health tends to flourish. When a society has large social and economic inequalities there are large inequalities in health.”
This is not just about the NHS, says Marmot. It’s about every part of society.
“The health of the population is not just a matter of how well the health service is funded and functions, important as that is: health is closely linked to the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age and inequities in power, money and resources – the social determinants of health.”
There is apathy from the government, inaction on addressing a social care crisis for the last ten years, and an NHS straining under the weight of a decade of neglect. But there is also a vicious zealotry in their policies that make the lives of working people harder.
Doctors in Unite Chair Dr Jackie Applebee rightly condemns the findings of the report. “Yet again the evidence shows that austerity is bad for your health,” she says. “It is shocking that in one of the richest countries in the world, life expectancy is decreasing. It is an indictment of this government’s policies that it is the poor and vulnerable who are disproportionately affected.”
In the lead up to budget day, health workers across the NHS are coming together to put wellbeing at the centre of the country’s finances. Nothing is worth more than good health.
Doctors in Unite urges all members, all doctors, and anyone who cares about our society becoming less just and less healthy to sign the Health and Wellbeing Budget pledge, organised by medical justice charity Medact.