The poor health of the British public is weighing heavily on the economy as the country dives into a recession.
Around 400,000 Brits are currently out of work due to long-term sickness, according to the latest from the Office for National Statistics.
Next year, Britain will become the only developed country with fewer people in work than before the Covid-19 pandemic after a surge in early retirement and ill health, the Institute for Employment Studies warned last month.
“The high rate of ill health is already affecting our economic prosperity, as more and more people leave the labour market, the productivity of those in work falls and fewer people are in good quality and secure work,” said a report by the British Medical Association (BMA) today, a union of more than 158,000 doctors and students.
“The inability of the government to ensure financial security for people is also harming the economy, with some unable to afford to participate in the job market. The issue is compounded by cuts to public services, with transport budgets facing the largest cuts.
“Doctors are speaking out because they can no longer pick up the pieces of the government’s failure to respond to these threats.”
The BMA has urged the government to “properly” fund public services and to push ahead with policies that protect public health, with no more delays.
“The country is facing multiple threats to its health, and the government is failing to respond,” the union wrote. “Poor housing, lack of good-quality employment, and money worries are all social determinants of poor health. While doctors can treat the symptoms, they are often powerless to address the underlying causes of the mental and physical ill health that patients experience.”
Professor Martin McKee, president of the BMA, cautioned that doctors are already suffering with burnout and struggling to cope with the rising number of patients.
“What we have seen from doctors across the UK here is a cry of pain,” he said, adding that it is could be “unavoidable” if the government would better fund public services.
“Budgets for all the things that we need for health, whether in local government, welfare, housing, and many other sectors have been eroded for more than a decade… Not only is a sick population more expensive to treat, but it is also a major barrier to the economic growth we all agree is needed.”