UK facing a ‘humanitarian crisis’ due to soaring energy costs, NHS leaders warn

NHS leaders warn of a deterioration in the nation's health without further action on the cost of living crisis.

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NHS leaders in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland warn of a rise in the number of people falling ill and a deterioration in the nation’s health if the government does not take immediate measures to curb additional energy price hikes.

They foresee a widening of health disparities and deterioration of health outcomes for those living in neighbourhoods with the highest levels of deprivation if individuals and families are pushed further into poverty as a result of high energy prices.

The decision about the energy price cap is anticipated on August 26, with the most recent estimates indicating that the cap might reach £4,200 by January.

If consumers are not protected from unaffordable energy price spikes, local NHS and social care providers will be forced to pick up the slack, with higher hospital admissions and strain on GP practises, A&E departments, ambulances, care homes, and other social services.

Without additional measures and accounting for the £400 refund, the fuel poverty rate will hit nearly 50 percent in October and 55 percent in January, with more than half of British homes living in fuel poverty.

Children living in fuel poverty will experience a dramatic increase in respiratory disorders, malnutrition, and hospitalizations.

In addition to being at increased risk for heart attacks, strokes, and falls, elderly individuals who live in cold environments are especially susceptible to vulnerability.

It is unusual for NHS leaders to speak on energy costs. However, such is the level of worry that the NHS Confederation, on behalf of NHS leaders across the country, has written a letter to the Chancellor requesting that price increases be capped and that targeted assistance be provided to the most in need individuals and families.

Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “The country is facing a humanitarian crisis. Many people could face the awful choice between skipping meals to heat their homes and having to live in in cold, damp and very unpleasant conditions.

“This in turn could lead to outbreaks of illness and sickness around the country and widen health inequalities, worsen children’s life chances and leave an indelible scar on local communities.

“These outbreaks will strike just as the NHS is likely to experience the most difficult winter on record.

“NHS leaders have made this unprecedented intervention as they know that fuel poverty will inevitably lead to significant extra demand on what are already very fragile services.

“Health leaders are clear that unless urgent action is taken by the government this will cause a public health emergency.”

In the letter, NHS executives assert that rapidly growing energy prices, coupled with other cost-of-living pressures, would force individuals and families throughout the United Kingdom to make hard decisions, such as whether to heat their houses or reduce spending on food and other necessities.

They warn that people’s health will rapidly decline if they are forced to live in frigid homes and cannot afford sufficient food.

They are extremely concerned that widespread fuel poverty will exacerbate the already high number of annual deaths related with cold homes – approximately 10,000 each year.

The NHS is already facing what many think will be one of the most difficult winters on record, due to a combination of increased demand for health services and predicted high levels of influenza, norovirus, and Covid outbreaks.

Leaders of the National Health Service (NHS) warn that a failure to limit energy price increases will exacerbate the issue by increasing demand on already overburdened health and social care services.

In addition to causing greater illness and disease, they warn it will have a significant impact on mental health, well-being, and social care.

Prior to next week’s decision on the new energy price cap, NHS chiefs urge the government to outline a more targeted and comprehensive support plan for households with the greatest need.

With bills expected to increase by 82%, they warn that the government’s current policy of providing £400 between April and October, paid in monthly instalments, will fall far short of the needs of the most vulnerable, even when combined with the one-time payments for recipients of Universal Credit, disability benefits, and the winter fuel allowance.

Katie Schmuecker, principal policy advisor at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “This unprecedented move from health and care leaders in England hammers home the fact that the rising cost of living is a national emergency.

“The rising price of essentials are a huge threat to health. It’s morally indefensible that already people in some parts of the UK die years earlier than they should, and we cannot allow this injustice to be made worse this winter.

“Not being able to afford a warm home and healthy food causes untold stress and anxiety. It also affects physical health due to a lack of nutrition and infectious diseases made worse by the cold.

“Over 7 million households were already going without at least one essential like food in May. The number of people going without common necessities will become an unmanageable risk if nothing is done.”

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