CHANCELLOR GEORGE Osborne claims that his budget cuts mean “everyone will pay something but the people at the bottom of the income scale will pay proportionately less than those at the top.”
However, according to a study from Oxford University published in the British Medical Journal, spending cuts will mean real pain being inflicted on the unemployed and the poorest people. The study shows that cuts in social spending actually costs lives; with a clear link between cuts and risks of death from heart attacks and alcohol-related illnesses.
Data on social welfare spending from 15 European countries between 1980 and 2005 showed that when social spending was relatively high, mortality rates declined but when spending was low mortality rates increased substantially. The researchers calculate that each £70 reduction in welfare spending per person increased alcohol-related deaths by 2.8% and cardiovascular mortality by 1.2%.
If only £70 worth of spending cuts in welfare has a significant impact on the public health of the poorest, what will Osborne’s tax rises and spending cuts (estimated at £4,300 per household) mean?
The report concludes “that ordinary people may be paying the ultimate price for budget cuts – potentially costing them their lives. If we want to promote a sustainable recovery in Britain, we must first ensure that we have taken care of people’s most basic health needs.”
Frontline health services attacked
THE BRITISH Medical Association (BMA) – the doctors’ professional body – says that frontline health services are already being cut despite the government’s assurance that such services would be protected.
The BMA quizzed 361 doctors (who between them represent committees at all of the country’s hospital trusts and some larger primary care trusts), on the NHS chiefs’ demand to plan for £20 billion of cuts in NHS spending over the next five years. 43% responded by saying that there was a recruitment freeze on replacing doctors and nurses, while 25% said that their trust was planning to make health workers redundant.
On average, the BMA poll found that trusts were aiming to shave 6% off their annual budgets. The BMA has called the cuts “devastating” in terms of maintaining “comprehensive and universal care in the future.”
The poll findings coincide with senior Tories Lord Lawson and parliamentary health committee member Nadine Dorries MP saying that the NHS has to take a spending cuts hit like all other government departments.