Health inequalities are about life expectancy and whether lives will be free from disability and,if not, how long lives are lived free from disability. Until the Thatcher government, Scotland’s health inequalities were much like those in the rest of Europe. After Thatcher, Scotland was regarded as the “sick man” of Europe though we have recovered a little from that tag to be less affected than some parts of the UK.
Dr Alex Scott-Samuel and colleagues from the Universities of Durham, West of Scotland, Glasgow and Edinburgh, sourced data from over 70 existing research papers, which concludes that as a result of unnecessary unemployment, welfare cuts and damaging housing policies, the former prime minister’s legacy “includes the unnecessary and unjust premature death of many British citizens, together with a substantial and continuing burden of suffering and loss of well-being.”
Speaking about the figures, Dr Scott-Samuel said: “Towards the end of the 1980s we were seeing around 500 excess deaths each year from chronic liver disease and cirrhosis. We also know that there were 2,500 excess deaths per year as a result of unemployment caused by Thatcher’s policies. And these premature deaths represent just the tip of an immense iceberg of sickness and suffering resulting from Thatcherism.”…
….Dr Scott-Samuel said: “The policies of successive Thatcher governments are at the heart of the attacks on the NHS, the welfare state and local authority services by the Coalition government. It is clear that Thatcher’s wholesale changes to the British economy created massive regional and social inequalities which are continuing to have a direct impact on people’s health at the present time.”
The Office of National Statistics briefing paper “Poverty in the UK: statistics” reveals that 13% of the population were in poverty, after housing costs, in 1961. This rose to 25% around 1980 before subsiding gently to 22% where it remains.