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The key to understanding the reasons for excess mortality in Spain

Spanish mortality figures are three times higher than European, with an excess of 30,479 more people dying since the beginning of 2022. Alarming figures are currently unexplained due to the lack of accurate and updated data and information.

This gap reflected in the latest report of the MoMo (Mortality Monitoring) system is nothing more than a statistical analysis of reported, observed, and expected mortality… Data in which neither age nor pathologies that have caused these deaths are recorded. Therefore, at present, and as the expert’s evidence, ‘we cannot know with certainty what has happened and we cannot take action’.

In fact, as echoes the statements of Óscar Zurriaga, a researcher at the University of Valencia and expert in disease and mortality registries, “We can work with mortality at a year’s sight because there are usually no radical changes, but when there are, we cannot find out and that is a big problem”.

Faced with this situation and the evident lack of real data, the only thing experts can do is to put forward hypotheses.

◆ Excess deaths as a result of health waiting lists
The surgical waiting list in Spain at the end of 2021 was 775,000 people. This is a record figure for our healthcare system. It is therefore logical to think that these devastating figures have consequences beyond the inconvenience of waiting for an operation. To this situation, we should also add the hidden waiting list, those people who, due to the pandemic, do not have or did not have, at the time, a diagnosis and, therefore, have not yet been able to access treatment or intervention. It is possible that part of this population has suffered from this excess mortality.

The response times of emergency services have increased
The saturation of the health system is evident. The pandemic has only highlighted some of the problems that the health system had been suffering from before, such as the lack of updating and modernization of the work system, the lack of staff and their precariousness, the lack of resources, etc. In fact, in addition to the surgical area, another of the areas that have suffered most from these problems is the Emergency Department. It is possible that the fact of not being able to attend to an emergency or urgency in time has had fatal results on some occasions.

The ageing population
Although it is possible that the low birth rate is generating an increasingly ageing population that needs more health resources and that, therefore, there is a tendency towards an increase in mortality. The truth is that the average age in Spain in 2022 has not changed in broad terms with respect to 2021, but deaths have increased significantly.

These three cases are mere hypotheses or even the perfect combination of the three to generate this excess mortality.

In the absence of data, it is important to compare with other European countries where this information is available, such as the United Kingdom.

This country, like Spain, is also suffering an excess of deaths above its usual statistics. A situation that coincides with the serious crisis that the NHS is going through.

In fact, some experts and the media have already claimed that these deaths are strictly linked to the collapse of the health system. Moreover, according to their figures, the causes of these deaths are the result of cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, urinary, liver, cancer, and diabetes diseases.

Why real and up-to-date data is so important in health care?

We are facing an exceptional situation that demands changes in the system. If we cannot know what is causing the excess deaths, it will not be possible to take the appropriate measures and lives that could have been saved may continue to be lost.

To date, these have been compiled by the INE on the basis of deaths reported by the health system. However, this information does not go any further.

Incorporating technological solutions that facilitate the task of recording data for healthcare professionals would make it possible to record these deaths in the patient’s history automatically and in real-time. Having such up-to-date information would make it much easier for health centres to report it to the Ministry of Health and the INE.

Save time.
Improve care.