THE scale of the deaths caused by UK Government austerity is “horrific”, a leading health expert has warned.

David Walsh, public health programme manager at Glasgow Centre for Population Health, said health inequalities were causing around half a million deaths across the UK every couple of years – the same "terrifying" figure which had prompted politicians into taking action over Covid.

He called for as much money to be ploughed into tackling inequalities as was set aside for the impact of the virus.

Giving evidence to MSPs on Holyrood’s health committee, he described the cost of austerity as “horrendous”.

The National:

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He said: “There have been some studies trying to quantify the numbers of deaths and we are doing a bit of work - but it is horrific.

“If you think about the amount of money that was invested in the pandemic, correctly, that came about because of modelling which showed that if the UK Government did nothing about Covid you would have half a million deaths in this country, which was this terrifying figure.

“Other research we have published with colleagues – again at Glasgow University – has shown that half a million deaths is more or less what you get from inequalities in the UK every couple of years.

“So it is about understanding the scale – and therefore if we can find lots and lots of money to deal with one crisis, then I think we need the money to deal with a much longer-lasting crisis that is having a bigger effect.”

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He added: “The UK and Scotland are wealthy countries – it’s about the distribution of that wealth across the country and the extent to which it helps the poorest and those who need most help.”

Walsh also said the Scottish Government had introduced “good things” to try to mitigate the impact of austerity – such as discretionary housing payments to help those affected by the bedroom tax and the Scottish Child Payment for those on low incomes.

But he added: “The sheer scale of things in terms of the scale of austerity means these good things are dwarfed by the negatives.”

Walsh revealed the Glasgow Centre for Population Health will be publishing a report next week in conjunction with the University of Glasgow looking at the impact of what austerity has done in terms of overall health inequalities.

“The evidence is all there in black and white in terms of the scale of it, in terms of the cuts to people’s incomes, in terms of the loss of services, in terms of how that has affected people through lots of different pathways,” he said.

“So you can trace the effects of austerity through well-understood pathways to ultimately and tragically early death.”