NHS leaders have warned that soaring energy bills could plunge the UK into a “humanitarian crisis” by driving a surge in hospital admissions.
The heads of NHS trusts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland called on the government limit price hikes and offer greater financial support to prevent a “public health emergency”.
The NHS chiefs warned that if energy bills become unaffordable the country’s health and social care system will be left to “pick up the pieces”.
In a letter to Chancellor of the Exchequer Nadhim Zahawi, the health chiefs noted the NHS in England already spends £1.3bn a year treating preventable illnesses caused by cold and damp homes.
The letter warns that soaring energy costs will widen health inequalities and lead to higher levels of hospital admissions.
It comes as energy bills are set to rise to heights of more than £4,200 per year from January 2023 after Ofgem lifts the price cap.
NHS Confederation chief executive Matthew Taylor noted the price cap increase will come as the NHS is likely to experience its “most difficult winter on record.”
“Health leaders are clear that unless urgent action is taken by the government this will cause a public health emergency,” Taylor said.
Beatrice Fraenkel, chair of Mersey Care NHS Foundation trust, said: “If people are unable to afford to adequately heat their homes or eat well, they are increasingly likely to fall ill and require the care of the NHS which is already under significant pressure.”
Labour shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, said: “NHS leaders are absolutely right to raise concerns about the impact on health.”