Inquiry into fall in survival for frail elderly

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Life expectancy for tens of thousands of older people has fallen, new figures have revealed.

Health chiefs have agreed to carry out urgent checks amid concerns over findings which show falls in survival in particular for people aged over 85.

A report published yesterday said life expectancy for 85-year-old women fell in more than half of local authorities between 2008-10 and 2011-13. For men, it fell in 40 per cent of council areas.

But in Yorkshire, the figures were worse with life expectancy for over 85s falling in 13 out of 21 local authorities for both men and women, with parts of North Yorkshire worst hit.

In Selby, men could expect to live another 6.8 years in 2008-10 but this fell to 5.7 years in 2011-13 and from 6.6 years to 5.7 years in Ryedale. For women, life expectancy fell from 8.2 years to 7.4 years in Hambleton and from 7.4 years to 6.7 years in Ryedale.

Only in the East Riding, Craven, Hambleton, Barnsley, Sheffield, and North Lincolnshire were there rises in life expectancy over the period for men. For women, there were increases only in Barnsley, Rotherham, Sheffield and Wakefield. In other areas, it either fell or remained the same.

Officials say they are puzzled by the changes which have occurred across the country and are not linked to levels of deprivation.

The findings have prompted speculation they could be linked to cuts caused by austerity to social care services, as well as rising fuel bills. Levels of flu and the weather could also play a part.

Bosses at Public Health England said there had been an increase in life expectancy among older people since the early 1980s. A fall in life expectancy in 2012 had been reflected across Europe and latest figures for 2013 did not show any further falls.

It said the upward trend in life expectancy in recent years had flattened in some regions including Yorkshire, particularly for women.

Prof John Newton, chief knowledge officer at Public Health England, said: “There has been significant interest and concern already expressed over these findings.

“However, the analysis presented in this report suggests it is too early to conclude that there has been a significant change in the overall upward trend in life expectancy at older ages. Fluctuations like these have been seen before. Public Health England will continue to monitor the trends closely and will report on the figures for 2014 as soon as they are available.”

No public health officials in North Yorkshire were available to comment last night.

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