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  • The relationship between poverty and NHS services

    Created: 25/03/2024
    News/Events Category: Health and Social Care

    The new Kings Fund report with Joseph Rowntree Foundation reports on the relationship between poverty and NHS services. The report highlights that people living in poverty find it harder to live a healthy life, live with more illnesses, and die earlier than the rest of the population. 

    It is estimated that more than one in five people in the UK are living in poverty. Living in poverty has a profound impact on people's health and how they use NHS services. From greater prevalence of a wide range of diseases and difficulties in accessing health care, to later treatment and worse health outcomes, poverty affects every stage of the patient journey. 

    As well as taking a significant toll on individuals, poverty also leads to additional costs for the NHS. In 2016, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimated the cost of poverty on health care (i.e. additional public spending due to greater health care need and use) at £29 billion (£34 billion in current prices). Since that report, the situation has got worse - the number of people living in poverty has increased since 2015/16, and the proportion of those people living in deep poverty has risen.

    The report looks at the link between poverty and: 

    • Prevalence of ill health 
    • Difficulties accessing health care 
    • Late or delayed treatment (and higher NHS costs) 
    • Poorer health outcomes

    These four issues can be seen across a wide range of NHS services, from emergency care to dentistry. 

    Key data from the report

    Compared to the least deprived areas of the UK, amongst people living in the most deprived areas:

    • The depression rate is 2x higher 
    • Nearly 4x as many people are detained under the Mental Health Act 
    • 3x as many people are in hospital
    • Fewer people take part in screenings (75% vs 64%)
    • The mortality rate for bowel cancer is 25% higher
    • Cases of COVID-19 were 1.5x higher, and there was lower vaccine uptake (79% vs 93%) 
    • The number of people dying from COVID-19 was 2.5x higher

    Read the report in full here.

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