If you thought Brexit was scary, just wait until you hear this. According to new research conducted by the Labour Party, "Dickensian diseases" are making a comeback in the UK. While increases in these Victorian-era diseases aren't at epidemic level, they're certainly something to be wary of. According to Labour's website, there has been a 52 percent increase in patients attending hospital for four Victorian-era diseases since 2010/11: scarlet fever, whopping cough, malnutrition, and gout.
The figures surrounding scarlet fever are the most shocking of all, with the number of hospital admissions for the disease rising from from 429 in 2010-11 to 1,321 in 2017-18. That's an increase of 208 percent. "Scarlet fever was a leading cause of infant deaths in the early 20th Century," Labour writes, "as memorably recorded in The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams."
While there isn't a vaccination for scarlet fever (the disease is treated with antibiotics, according to the NHS), there is one for whooping cough, and yet hospital admissions for the disease have still increased by 59 percent, Labour says. This could be down to the fact that the newer whooping cough vaccines are reported to be less effective than the older versions, according to research referenced in a 2016 New York Times report.
Malnutrition and gout have also been making a steady comeback in recent years, with admissions for these conditions rising by 54 percent and 38 percent, respectively, since 2010/11, according to Labour.
The cause of this sharp increase in Victorian-era diseases is not known for certain, but the Guardian reports that it could be a result of "antibiotic and antimicrobial resistance," or a reduction in vaccination uptake.
Labour suggests that these increased disease rates are down to austerity and government cutbacks. Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary Jonathon Ashworth made clear where he believed the blame should be placed, stating that "Dickensian diseases [are] on the rise in Tory Britain today." On Saturday, Ashworth announced Labour’s goal to match the UK's life expectancy rates with that of our international peers. Ashworth said: "The damning truth is austerity making our society sicker," before continuing: "We are facing a national emergency as widening health inequalities blight the land. Not only have advances in life expectancy begun to stall for the first time in a hundred years, it's even going backwards amongst some of the poorest communities."
In a statement given to CNN, Professional Lead for Public Health at the Royal College of Nursing Helen Donovan suggested that, while there are many reasons as to why this increase has happened, "the effect of sustained cuts to local authority public health budgets" cannot be ignored, as they "have caused services that screen, prevent, and protect against illness, and promote good hygiene to be scaled back."
"As a result, people at risk of diseases we thought were a thing of the past will continue to slip through the cracks. The government should accept its responsibility for failing the most vulnerable in our society and commit to investing properly in vital public health services."