Chart showing number of people waiting for treatment in the UK. Number have risten sharply over the last decade or so.

This is, as you’d expect, a restrained article from the BBC. But it still flies in the face of the government’s talk of a ‘sick note culture’ in the UK. Instead, as anyone lives here will attest, it’s the financial crisis, Brexit, and the pandemic, compounded by repeated government failure — including underfunding the NHS.

Research by the Health Foundation shows there are as many people aged 16 to 64 in work whose health limits what they can do as they are out of work because of ill-health.

Overall, it estimates nearly a fifth of the working-age population in the UK has what it calls a work-limiting condition.

In fact, the think tank believes the problem has become so bad that it is threatening the economic potential of the country.


So why are working-age people so ill? Christopher Rocks, who heads up the Health Foundation’s work in this area, says it is a “complicated” picture.

He says while there has been a lot of focus on the issue since the pandemic, the trend has actually been developing for the past decade at least.

“The 2008 financial crisis had a major impact on society - we saw an economic downturn and public spending cuts. That had an impact on people’s health in many different ways. The pandemic and subsequent cost of living crisis exacerbated trends, but the signs were there before Covid hit.

“Access to health care has become more difficult, while those fundamental building blocks of health - such as good housing and adequate incomes - are under strain.”

How that has affected people varies depending on their age and where they live. Research published this week warned the numbers with major illness was set to increase significantly. with the people in the most deprived areas suffering the most - many with multiple conditions.

The work, also published by the Health Foundation, found there were three main conditions causing a significant burden of ill-health: chronic pain, type 2 diabetes and mental health problems. Each is a reflection of the different challenges facing the country.

Source: BBC News