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Preliminary data from the Office for National Statistics shows that, in 2015, there were 5.4 per cent more deaths in England – almost 27,000 extra deaths – than in 2014. This is 6.3 per cent more than the average of the preceding five years.

The year-on-year rise is the highest since 1968, and there were more deaths in 2015 – 528,340 – than in any year since 2003. The numbers of deaths had been falling steadily since the 1970s, but the trend began to reverse in 2011.

Responding to the data, Ray James, President of the Association of Directors OF Adult Social Services , said: “Figures from the Office for National Statistics highlighting a significant rise in mortality rates, particularly amongst older people, are concerning. While last year’s rise was attributed to the flu, it is understandable that people are asking questions about a possible link to ongoing cuts to funding for adult social care. A thorough understanding of the facts behind the figures is therefore essential, so we support calls for an investigation into these statistics. It is more helpful to examine and learn than to speculate.”

John Newton, chief knowledge officer at Public Health England, highlights the importance of keeping an open mind about the reasons behind the trends, stating: “We have been monitoring changes in life expectancy and mortality in England…We find the statistics for older people fluctuate quite a bit from year to year and around the country. There is often no obvious pattern to this but it is clearly important to keep a close eye on the trends and consider a range of possible explanations.”