What the papers have been saying: a week where deaths demand attention:
It has been a busy week for those of us looking for commentaries on the state of the nation’s health and the care available to people when they are in difficulty.
The hardest information comes from death rates/life expectation. It is alarming to realise that death rates amongst new born have risen https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/childhoodinfantandperinatalmortalityinenglandandwales/2017
It is puzzling and uncomfortable to learn that people reaching the age of 65 are now predicted to live 6 months less than they were ten years ago https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/mar/07/life-expectancy-slumps-by-five-months
And, following on from our interest and concern for the quality of life available in prisons, it is disconcerting to be informed that the death rate amongst people (mainly men) recently discharged from prison has risen by a factor of five overall, a factor of six for suicide. Freed prisoners killing themselves at a rate of one every two days
Life expectation for infants and for older people has been steadily increasing for decades, a tribute to improved living conditions and advances in medical care. Commentators are at one in interpreting the reversal of this healthy trend to deterioration in living circumstances for many people, particularly those who are poor, some of whom have become homeless. This is seen to be a product of policies, and changes in the benefits system. These are things which can be identified, can be addressed and their adverse effects countered.
Increased deaths amongst people recently discharged from prison include a threefold increase in death by natural causes, perhaps linked to the greater number of older men who have been imprisoned, many of who are known to be carrying pathology. There are threefold increases in death from accidents or homicide, but six fold increases in death which is self-inflicted (515 during 2018/19) or unclassified (130 during 2018/19). These figures come from a report for ‘Inquest’ which is authored by Dr Jake Phillips and Rebecca Roberts. They draw upon routine data reflecting life and deaths within the criminal justice system which are published by the Ministry of Justice.
The picture is of a chaotic, frightening, and dangerous place to be: self-inflicted deaths 2018/19 were 212/100,000 amongst people leaving prison, 132/100,000 amongst others serving community order who have not been to prison, 83/100,000 for people in prison. Only 13.6/100,000 died in this way during this year amongst the general population. This situation has arisen since changes which disposed of the traditional probation service
These are important background facts. They point to matters not being right in our community. The impact is greatest amongst the most vulnerable. Middle aged and older men leaving prison are particularly at risk.