Action needed on energy costs which pose a risk to people’s health!

Rising numbers of people in the UK will fall sick and see their health worsen unless the Government takes further action to limit energy price increases, according to NHS leaders. The NHS Confederation, on behalf of NHS leaders, wrote a letter to the chancellor on 19 August 2022 stating the UK was facing a “humanitarian crisis”.

What effect will increased energy costs have?

The NHS Confederation said many people would face the awful choice of skipping meals in order to be able to afford to heat their homes or face having to endure living in cold and damp conditions which pose health risks. NHS leaders predict that if households are not safeguarded from unaffordable energy price hikes it will fall to local NHS and social care services to pick up the pieces, with increased hospital admissions and demand on GP surgeries, A&E departments, ambulances, care homes and other social care services. They warn that if people are forced to live in cold homes and cannot afford nutritious food, then their health will quickly deteriorate. The health risks that the NHS are particularly concerned about are cold conditions which lead to a rise in respiratory conditions, especially in older people which also increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes and falls. Currently, 10,000 deaths a year are attributed to cold homes.  This could rise significantly. The NHS Confederation is worried this will increase amidst what is likely to be one of the toughest winters on record because of the combination of the energy cost crisis alongside a combination of flu, norovirus and Covid outbreaks.

Chief executive Matthew Taylor, a former Labour Party adviser, said:

“Many people could face the awful choice between skipping meals to heat their homes and having to live in cold, damp and very unpleasant conditions.”

What has the Government Said?

However, government ministers have said that action was already being taken and the NHS is supported. On 29 July 2022 the Government promised that households in England, Scotland and Wales will receive £400 to help with rising fuel bills this autumn.  The money is due in October 2022. Furthermore, about eight million of the poorest households will each receive £1,200. However, since that policy was announced on 29 July 2022 the predictions for how high energy costs could go have risen further. Therefore the latest estimates say the average household could be paying more than £4,200 a year than originally estimated. That works out at an average of £355 a month, substantially higher than the current average of £164. However, the Government has said it will not take any more action until a new prime minister is appointed next month. A decision in respect of the energy price cap is expected on 26 August 2022.

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