After the Fall

After the Fall

Almost six weeks after the inquiry was announced no deadline has been set for Public Health England’s inquiry report into mortality rate rises across all of England.

Lawrence Paulson mentions a recent study in the journal BMJ Open which estimates that because past improvements have stalled, by 2020 there will be an additional 152,000 deaths in the UK (LRB Letters, 19 July 2018). On 18 June the Office for National Statistics reported a further annual 5 per cent absolute rise in mortality across England. This was after they had taken into account the effects of ageing, and is in addition to the estimated 152,000.

Most of these deaths occurred before the weather turned very cold in February and, as the ONS reported, ‘influenza activity remained at medium levels throughout the whole of January and February 2018.’ On 20 March Jeremy Hunt [who was then Secretary of State for Health] had incorrectly stated in the House of Commons that mortality rates had ‘remained broadly stable over recent years. When his error became apparent, Hunt sanctioned an inquiry by Public Health England into the rise in mortality rates. No deadline has been set for the inquiry’s report.

As Zosia Kmietowicz reported on June 26th in The British Medical Journal:

The government is commissioning a review of the spike in deaths seen in England and Wales this year, after the issue was raised in the BMJ. … In response the Department of Health and Social Care said that it was asking Public Health England (PHE) to conduct a review into deaths and would announce a publication date in due course.”

That was well over a month ago. When will they announce a publication date for the review into the rise in deaths across England? Upon becoming the new Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock made no mention of the inquiry in the first (very) long speech he gave on 20th July 2018 on his priorities as Secretary of State.

Link to PDF and the London Review of Books issue where this letter was originally printed in the August 2nd volume.


Jeremy Hunt


Excess Mortality in the first 16 weeks of 2018, England and Wales