Death rates show 'mystery rise'

There has been an unexplained rise in the number of people dying in England and Wales, according to a report.

The document, seen by the Times newspaper and the Health Service Journal, reported 600 more people died each week last year than the average.

The increase was highest in the elderly, particularly those over 80.

Public Health England said death rates were currently in line with expectation.

About 10,000 people die a week normally, but last year's figures were about 5% higher than average.

The increase has not been explained although suggested contributory factors include flu, a levelling off of life expectancy and council cuts.

A Public Health England representative said it "uses data on weekly all-cause death registrations in England and Wales provided by the Office for National Statistics to establish a baseline of the expected number of deaths registered in each week".

"Allowing for variation, we can then determine if the number of deaths are higher than expected," the representative said.

"As acknowledged in Public Health England's annual influenza report, the number of deaths during 2012-13 was high, especially amongst those 85 years and older and in deaths recorded as resulting from respiratory causes.

"We are currently undertaking further work to understand why there was a rise in mortality rates during the earlier months of this year and the causes behind this.

"The weekly number of deaths are currently within levels expected for this time of year."