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Press release

The King's Fund comments on ONS excess mortality data

Commenting on the new Office for National Statistics data comparing mortality between European countries in 2020, Dr Veena Raleigh, Senior Fellow at The King’s Fund, said:

'This latest analysis shows that the UK’s standing in the European league table of excess mortality varied between the first and second waves of the pandemic. In the first wave from March to June 2020, the UK had the highest cumulative excess mortality rate in Europe compared with 2015-19. By December 2020 it no longer headed the list but it was nonetheless seventh out of the 26 countries analysed, with only Spain, Belgium and some East European countries having higher rates. In contrast, some countries including Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Estonia, experienced no excess mortality.

'While the UK no longer heads the leaderboard of excess mortality in Europe, for people under 65 years old its constituent countries had excess mortality rates that were well above other European countries except for Bulgaria. It will be important to establish what went so wrong for our younger people. It is also the poorest who have suffered the most. As yesterday’s figures from Public Health England revealed, life expectancy for people living in the poorest areas fell by two years between 2019 and 2020, compared to one year for those in the richest areas.

'The UK finally seems to be on a more positive trajectory, with one of the best-performing vaccination campaigns globally. However, this unpredictable pandemic is with us for the foreseeable future and it is too early to be complacent. It will take a public inquiry to determine what went wrong with the UK’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic last year, but mistakes were made. Decisions to enter lockdown consistently came late, with the government failing to learn from past mistakes or the experiences of other countries.'

Notes to editors

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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.