The Effects of Austerity

This post lists some of the impacts of austerity. Unlike most of the other pages on this site it is not intended to explain Labour’s policies. Instead, the idea is to gather lots of information about the effects of austerity in one place.

If you aren’t sure what austerity is or why it is unnecessary from an economic point of view, have a read of some of the other posts on this site where I explain it in detail.

I will try to include as many of the impacts of austerity as possible and will continue adding to the list over time. If you are aware of any that I have left out, please get in touch.


Fall in GP numbers

There has been a substantial fall in the number of GPs per person since austerity was introduced (source).

Since 2014, the number of GPs per 100,000 people has fallen every year. There hasn’t been a sustained fall like this since the 1960s.

A big part of the reason for this is that since the spending cuts began, many GPs have been deciding to take early retirement. It has reached the point where two thirds of GP retirements are now early retirements – this is double the rate from five years ago.

There has also been a failure to find enough new trainees and to retain the trainees who have started.

Due to the fall in GP numbers, the average GP now has 125 extra patients. This means more pressure on GPs and longer waiting times for patients. A third of people who need an urgent same-day appointment are unable to get one, and people in some parts of the country are having to wait six weeks or longer for a routine appointment.

Falling life expectancy in the poorest parts of the country

Research from the London School of Economics has found that for some of the poorest parts of the country life expectancy is falling (source). This decrease is partly being driven by avoidable deaths in young people.

Rising numbers of operations being cancelled

The number of operations cancelled has increased by 32% in the last two years (source).

This is partly being caused by staff shortages and faulty equipment. The NHS has reported that it is short of 100,000 staff, including 35,000 nurses and 10,000 doctors. In terms of faulty equipment, it has been estimated that £6 billion is needed to do all the repairs needed across the NHS.

Longest hospital waiting times since records began

Hospital waiting times are the longest they have ever been (source).

The NHS is now regularly failing to meet its target on the proportion of cancer patients starting treatment within 62 days of urgent referral – a target that was regularly met before 2014.

The same is true for the number of A&E patients seen within 4 hours, and the number people starting hospital treatment within 18 weeks of referral.


More and more people using foodbanks

The number of three-day emergency food supplies given to people in crisis by the Trussell Trust has risen by 73% since 2013 (source). The number has gone up every year, and is now at 1,583,668. More than 570,000 of these were for children.

The main three reasons for people needing the emergency food supplies are not having enough income to pay for essentials, delays in receiving benefits, and changes to benefits.

The people using foodbanks include some full-time nurses (source) and teachers (see education section below).

Number of people sleeping on streets more than doubled

Official figures have shown that the number of people sleeping on the streets has increased 165% since 2010 (source). Homeless charities have argued that the actual numbers are much higher than the official statistics show.

Local councils have said that it is becoming more and more difficult to prevent rough sleeping due to cuts to their funding from the Government.

Increasing numbers of homeless people dying

The number of deaths among homeless people increased 24% between 2013 and 2017 (source).

The average age of death is now 44 for homeless men and 42 for homeless women (compared to 76 for men and 81 for women in the whole population).

Unequal impacts

The impacts of austerity are disproportionately affecting poor people, women, disabled people, and people of certain ethnicities – including Pakistani and Bangladeshi people (source). For example, the incomes of the poorest 20% of people have fallen substantially, while there has been little or no impact on the incomes of the richest 20%.


Teachers using their own money to pay for school resources

A survey found that 80% of teachers are using their own money to pay for school resources (source).

The survey also found that three quarters of schools are relying on donations of money from parents to make up for falling budgets.

Schools shortening the school week to save money

Some schools are shortening the school week because their budget is not big enough to pay for the full week (source1, source2).

For example, one school in Stockport is closing early on Fridays to save money.

Worst school staffing crisis in decades

Schools are facing the worst staffing crisis in decades (source).

One of the main causes of the problem is the failure to retain teachers. Almost a third of teachers leave the profession within five years of qualifying. Teaching unions have blamed poor pay, increasingly large workloads and a culture in which teachers do not feel respected and valued.

The number of new teachers being trained has fallen to its lowest level in six years.

Increasing numbers of teachers in financial difficulty

A charity which provides support to teachers, teaching assistants and other school staff has reported a 67% increase in the number of teachers applying to them for financial support since 2016 (source).

Education unions have said that the large increase in the number of school staff facing financial difficulties is due to a real-terms (after inflation) fall in salaries at a time when housing and childcare costs have soared.

There have also been reports of increasing numbers of teachers and other school staff using food banks.

The head of policy at the charity that released the figures said, “People don’t expect teachers to be homeless and they don’t expect them to be getting the majority of their food from food banks. This is the reality we are seeing on an increasingly frequent basis”.

Other Public Services

Large reduction in the number of firefighters

There has been a 21.7% decrease in the number of firefighters in England since 2010 (source).

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