An urgent investigation is needed into why excess deaths are near pandemic levels, because the lack of an explanation is fuelling “wild and dangerous theories”, experts warn.
Government figures suggest the number of extra or “unnecessary” fatalities this year is higher than 2021 and 2022, and on a trajectory that could even surpass 2020.
Of particular concern is the 15 to 44 age group, where cumulative deaths are tracking above all recent years, including 2020.
Some commentators have suggested delayed medical treatment due to lockdown measures might be contributing to the rise.
Others have blamed the indirect impact of pandemic measures, such as increased loneliness and isolation, as well as a rise in alcohol consumption and recreational drug use.
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Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty has previously hypothesised that rising non-Covid excess deaths could have been caused by a fall in heart drug prescriptions. But subsequent research has shown there was no such drop.
It was also claimed doctors’ strikes coincided with the jump in deaths. However, the British Medical Association said walkouts were not “the root cause”. It insisted: “There was no change in mortality trends during strike action.”
The latest figures mean that since 2019 more deaths are being recorded each week than the five-year average. Only a small proportion of these are now being directly attributed to Covid.
Dr Charles Levinson, Medical Director of private GP service Doctorcall, said the “silence” from Government was allowing conspiracy theories to flourish, including from anti-vaxxers.
He said: “A refusal to openly discuss these statistics is an abdication of responsibility from parts of the scientific community, leading to an irreversible erosion of trust by parts of society.
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“There has been radio silence on the crisis from almost all, leaving a vacuum which is being filled by dangerous theories.”
Last night Professor Carl Heneghan, director of the Centre for Evidence-based Medicine at Oxford University, called for an urgent inquiry.
He said: “There has been a complete failure by the Government to investigate these deaths correctly. This means we don’t know how to prevent further unnecessary deaths, fuelling wild speculation about the drivers.”
The Department of Health and Social Care said: “A wide variety of factors have contributed to excess deaths in recent months and we’re taking action to reduce them.
“Our forthcoming Major Conditions Strategy will look at how best to diagnose and manage the main drivers of ill health and death.”
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