People are increasingly avoiding NHS appointments and prescriptions due to cost of living
According to national findings the number of people avoiding an NHS appointment because they can’t afford travel almost doubled between October and December as the cost of living crisis is forcing many to change how they use health and care services. Over a third (39%) of people say the changes they have made to their lives due to the cost of living crisis have affected their mental health.
Women are disproportionately affected by spiralling costs, with 35% saying their mental health has got worse over the last two months, compared to 26% of men.
The national findings mirror local trends but also at Healthwatch Kirklees we’ve found that people with disabilities are those most disproportionally affected. In light of this we’ve started our year-long Never Heard campaign reaching out to those who don’t always have an opportunity to share their views easily. Our team have been working hard to give people with sensory, cognitive, learning or physical disabilities and parents of children with long-term health conditions a bigger voice. Look out for more from our Never Heard project being shared in late February… a sneak peak below.
Thankfully, we are also seeing local groups collaborate to support those in urgent need. One such example is the North Kirklees sewing group’s appeal for help to make quilts and blankets for the people who need them most. Organiser Joanne Cook will be at various venues and libraries across North Kirklees on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays where you can join her (no expertise needed) in quilting blankets for people who need extra warmth this winter. Details of the sessions can be found here.
We’d love to know more about what you are doing to help others? Has the rising cost of living affected your health?
You can email us on email@example.com, call our team on 01924 450379 or post a comment at the end of this article.
Actions for change
With spiralling costs of living, Healthwatch England is warning that people are making changes to how they use health and social care services, which can have an adverse impact on their health and wellbeing.
New Healthwatch data suggests people are increasingly avoiding prescriptions, out-of-pocket costs for carers and attending NHS appointments due to the costs involved. National body Healthwatch England conducted a tracker poll with 2,000 adults in England between October and December to assess the impact of the cost of living on their health and well-being and whether it has affected how they use health and social care services. It found that more people avoided getting prescription medicines, and booking NHS appointments, including dental treatment, due to the fear of extra costs.
The number of people who avoided an NHS appointment due to the cost of travel almost doubled to more than one in 10 (11%, in December, up from 6% in October);
Over one in ten (11%) have avoided booking an NHS appointment because they couldn’t afford the associated costs, such as accessing the Internet or the cost of a phone call; up from 7% in October;
15% of respondents avoided going to a dentist because of the cost of checks ups or treatment, up from 12% in October;
And one in ten (10%) people have also avoided taking up one or more NHS prescriptions because of the cost, up from 6% in October;
One in ten (10%) avoided buying over the counter medication they normally rely on, up from 7% in October.
More than a third of the respondents, 39%, said that the changes they have made to keep up with the rising cost of living have negatively affected their mental health, while 35% said their physical health worsened in the last two months. The findings also suggest women are disproportionally affected by spiralling costs compared to men and more have taken action to cut back on:
• heating, which 42% of women have not turned on when they usually would, compared to 33% of men;
• food, which 27% of women say they have bought less of, because of the increased cost, compared to 20% of men; and
• energy costs in general, with 33% of women saying they have turned off or avoided using essential appliances to save energy costs, compared to 25% of men.
Louise Ansari, National Director of Healthwatch England said: “It is clear that the impact of the cost of living crisis on people’s health and wellbeing is beginning to hit home. “We are very worried that people are increasingly avoiding getting prescription medicines, booking NHS appointments and travelling to their appointments because of the extra costs. The steps people are taking to cope with the cost of living can have serious implications on their physical and mental health. This is likely to place a further burden on the already stretched NHS.”
Healthwatch England has set out immediate actions the government working with health and care services can take to support people in the cost-of-living crisis and save money.
The rise in cost of living is having a knock-on effect on many areas of our lives. From financial and debt issues, keeping your house warm and needing support with the cost of food.
Here are website links giving useful support for the rise in cost of living:
Share your experiences
What do you think of the proposed actions from Healthwatch England you can read their information in full here. Would they work for you or would you like to see something different?
Health and social care providers can best improve services by listening to people’s experiences. We make sure NHS leaders and other decision-makers hear your voice and use your feedback to improve care. We welcome your comments and thoughts via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or in the boxes below. (Please note comments are moderated before publishing).