Heart and Circulatory Diseases: Premature Deaths

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:23 pm on 22 February 2024.

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Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley 4:23, 22 February 2024

It is a pleasure to follow Andrew Bridgen, as I often seem to in these debates, which often resemble Madame Tussauds: the same faces appear, time after time. As you will know, Madam Deputy Speaker, I have a reputation for brevity in my speeches, and I intend to support that reputation now.

I congratulate my hon. Friend Dean Russell on securing this important and rather timely debate, and I echo the hon. Member for North West Leicestershire in saying that we enjoy seeing him looking so fit and healthy after the trauma that he had. This is a really important matter, and he is right to raise it today. As I highlighted in last month’s Westminster Hall debate on excess death trends, a recent article in The Lancet found that although the causes of ongoing excess deaths in the UK

“are likely to be multiple”,

Office for National Statistics data showed some clear trends—in particular, the “largest relative excess deaths” since the pandemic occurred in young and middle-aged adults, with the number of cardiac deaths happening outside hospitals being the most elevated. In other words, young and previously healthy people are dying at home from cardiac-related events, and we do not know why.

These are not just numbers and statistics—these are real people, loved ones, often from younger age groups, who are dying before their time. It is urgent and our duty to get to the bottom of the situation sooner rather than later. As I am sure we are all aware, there are many theories circulating about the causes of these excess deaths. One is the possibility of a causal link between the population-wide use of covid-19 vaccines and the marked increase in cardiovascular-related critical events, including heart attacks and strokes, among otherwise apparently healthy people. We do not know if that is the cause or not, because the data is not being released. Until certain data sets are released, it is impossible to rule that theory in or out.

That is why I, along with cross-party colleagues, wrote yesterday to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care; Professor Steven Riley, the director general for data at the UK Health Security Agency; and Dr Alison Cave, the chief safety officer at the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. We warn that by withholding official data, the Department, UKHSA and MHRA are helping fuel concerns and hesitancy about public health. We have asked that anonymised record-level official mortality data be released, alongside vaccination dates, doses and co-morbidities, without delay. We understand that the MHRA has collected and already shared this data with pharmaceutical companies to enable those companies to produce post-authorisation safety studies for their products, so I see no reason why it cannot also be shared with parliamentarians and the public right away. Will the Minister say whether that data has been shared with pharmaceutical companies? If so, why is not being shared with the rest of us?

As the Minister surely realises, repetitive generic assurances that the Government and the UKHSA take excess deaths “seriously” and monitor them “constantly”, and that the MHRA have

“systems in place to continually monitor the safety of our medicines”—[Official Report, 16 January 2024;
Vol. 743, c. 235WH.]

do not serve to reassure anybody at all. Likewise, the news from the Office for National Statistics this week that it has revised its excess deaths methodology, and that there are suddenly 20,000 fewer excess deaths last year, has done little to quell public concern. If anything, it has done the exact opposite: people cynically see it as a convenient sleight of hand.

As we say in our letter, if the Government and their agencies are not willing to share the data we have requested, will the Minister explain to us why not? We are all on the same side and want to look after people. We are all concerned to do the best we can for everybody, but until we have all the data, we just do not know what we do not know. If there is any potential that public health interventions, such as covid-19 vaccines, are causing harm and premature death to some, we must act on that without delay. If the evidence shows that that there is no issue, then it is in everybody’s interest for that reassurance to be in the public domain as quickly as possible.