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Review launched to address health and prosperity inequalities

by Louise McEvoy
29 April 2022

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A review addressing the UK’s ‘grave inequalities in health and opportunity,’ brought into sharp focus by the pandemic, is being launched by think tank Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), in conjunction with the NHS Confederation.

A new IPPR report, published to mark the launch of the cross-party Commission on Health and Prosperity this week, warns that the UK’s deep health inequalities mean people are living shorter lives, with more years spent in poor health, and face greater barriers to staying in and getting on at work.

Responding to the report, Matthew Taylor, NHS Confederation chief executive and commission member, said: ‘Systematic inequality was an issue long before the pandemic and it is vital that it is addressed once and for all.’

IPPR argued that for too long politicians have ‘treated spending on health as a cost to be contained,’ rather than as ‘a keystone of a thriving, prosperous economy.’

There are now more than a million workers missing from the workforce compared to the pre-pandemic trend, IPPR’s analysis shows, with about 400,000 of these no longer working because of health factors such as long Covid. Unresolved, this will drag down economic activity this year by an estimated £8 billion, the researchers warned.

Dame Sally Davies, former chief medical officer and co-chair of the Commission on Health and Prosperity, said: ‘Not only are we facing a severe cost of living crisis, we’re also experiencing a workforce shortage driven by poor health that’s holding back the economy.

‘It has never been more important to put good health at the heart of our society and economy, and our commission will bring forward a plan to do just that.’

Working in close collaboration with integrated care systems, IPPR says the review will build on a body of existing NHS Confederation and IPPR evidence on health and prosperity in places to develop a proposition for reform, ‘to ensure people can enjoy living healthy lives longer and to heal the nation’s fractured and anaemic economy.’

IPPR is urging policy makers to put ‘the building blocks of good health in place – good work, quality housing, local public health services, a well-funded and staffed NHS – to improve people’s lives and wellbeing.’

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester and member of the Commission on Health and Prosperity, said: ‘One of the fundamental beliefs of the British public is that everyone should have access to good health, irrespective of their means and location, but currently we see grave inequalities in health and opportunity across the country.

‘Good health must be built into all the places people live across the whole country, and communities must be supported to take greater control of their health and wellbeing.’

Chris Thomas, head of the Commission on Health and Prosperity, said: ‘An unthinking return to the status quo would be a grotesque injustice to all who have lost their lives and livelihoods [during the pandemic]. We must build back better.’

It comes after more practices have been encouraged to become ‘veteran friendly’ after positive results from the accreditation scheme.