Labour’s health mission: diagnosing but not treating? 2023
Nationwide, we’re ill. Life expectancy improvements have stagnated, people are living longer in poor health, and health-related job losses are at historic highs.
The UK’s many health issues require major adjustment and investment. First and foremost, good health underpins social justice. Cicero said the greatest law is public health. It also builds a rich nation.
IPPR’s Commission on health and Prosperity reported that long-term sickness cost the UK economy £43bn in 2023, or 2% of GDP. Long-term illness costs employers, the self-employed, and short-term workers more than this.
Health’s economic link makes it a vote-winner. Public polling routinely ranks health and the economy as the top two concerns. Any side could win with an agenda based on their interactions.
Labour’s health mission: improving
Labour’s health mission may be its most crucial. The good news is that the party is close to establishing its governing goals.
Workforce, preventive, community, and technology are NHS priorities in this aim. IPPR’s vision for a 21st-century NHS is one that stays faithful to its original values but adapts to modern health realities.
The commitment to improving healthy life expectancy and health inequalities is more vital. Social fairness and wealth will improve most with healthier lifestyles. Health requires more than the NHS.
National health requires systemic transformation.
UK healthy life expectancy is below the statutory pension age and varies widely. North East residents are required to labor six years in bad health before reaching state pension age. This variance increases inequality and impoverishes the nation when people leave the employment early owing to health issues.
This is especially essential when the state pension age rises. Three factors explain our current stagnation. First, we fail to “price in” the long-term benefit of health when evaluating numerous therapies. Second, we struggle to coordinate government action, and third, unlike climate and net zero, we lack a long-term, legally declared health goal.
The IPPR health and prosperity commission recommended modifying government architecture to facilitate development. These include committing to a long-term purpose, supported by a new organization like the climate change committee, to coordinate government activity, keep ministries accountable, and genuinely drive success. Labour leaders’ pledges are welcome.
The elephant is preventive funding.
The big question is how much Labour will spend on prevention. Social investment in health is often inhibited, thus the system has to alter.
Like the soft drinks charge, this might boost tax revenues while improving public health. This has avoided 5,000 primary school students from becoming fat, sparing them and the NHS from future issues.
This shows us how to improve national health. Alcohol, cigarette, vaping, and social media fees might lead to innovation and better lifestyles like the soft drinks levy. Revenues might be transferred to promote health and progress.
Labour’s embrace of this aim suggests it is rethinking how to address the nation’s health issues. Its vision has to be finalized, but it’s positive that the party’s leaders appear to grasp that greater health is our country and economy’s most urgent need.