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Press release

'In 2020, the UK had one of the highest rates of excess deaths in the world': The King’s Fund responds to Office for National Statistics deaths data for 2020

Responding to the latest Office for National Statistics data on deaths in England and Wales in 2020, Richard Murray, Chief Executive of The King’s Fund said:

'Almost 80,000 more people in England and Wales died last year than the preceding 5-year average, and the death toll continues to rise at a shocking rate. In 2020, the UK had one of the highest rates of excess deaths in the world, with more excess deaths per million people than most other European countries and the US.

‘It will take a public inquiry to determine exactly what went wrong, with the UK’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic but mistakes have been made. In a pandemic, mistakes cost lives. Decisions to enter lockdown have consistently come late, with the government failing to learn from past mistakes or the experiences of other countries. The promised “protective ring” around social care in the first wave was slow to materialise and often inadequate, a contributing factor to the 26,200 excess deaths among care home residents last year.

‘Like many countries, the UK was poorly prepared for this type of pandemic. However, the NHS was already overstretched when the pandemic began, with more than 100,000 vacancies and high levels of staff stress and burnout, while social care was at breaking point following a decade of neglect from successive governments. The exhausted staff who have supported, treated and saved so many lives, often at the expense of their own wellbeing, will need time to recover.’

Notes to editors

For further information, or to request an interview, please contact the Press and Public Affairs team on 020 7307 2585 (if calling out of hours, please ring 07584 146035).

The King's Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and care in England. We help to shape policy and practice through research and analysis; develop individuals, teams and organisations; promote understanding of the health and social care system; and bring people together to learn, share knowledge and debate. Our vision is that the best possible health and care is available to all.