Cost-of-living crisis a recipe for health disparity

A near constant stream of reports about the negative impact of the cost-of-living crisis on the nation’s health – and about the government’s failure to address the problem – have hit the headlines in recent months. 

Last week HSJ published the results of an FoI request for data from the NHS Business Service Authority relating to the NHS low-income scheme. This revealed that in 2022 there had been a 35 per cent year-on-year increase in applications under the scheme that offers help with prescription charges, dental fees and the costs of travelling to NHS treatments.

The FoI request followed on from two surveys that surfaced earlier this year. The first, conducted over the last three months of 2022 by Healthwatch, helps explain the surge in low-income scheme applications identified by HSJ.

The health watchdog found that respondents were increasingly avoiding getting prescriptions and over-the-counter (OTC) medications, and were refraining from booking NHS appointments – especially dental check-ups. This was not only because of the up-front charges, but also the incidental, associated costs relating to travel, phone and broadband usage.

More than a third of the respondents – nearly 40 per cent – said cutting back in this way, in addition to not turning on the heating and cutting back on food, had negatively affected their mental and physical health.

A month later, in February this year, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) released the results of a survey that again showed the cost-of-living crisis was having an impact on the take-up of prescription medicines.

Full story in The Lowdown, 22 May 2023