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Healthwatch Gloucestershire calls for more support for those struggling to stay healthy amid rising living costs

by | Sep 27, 2023 | Healthwatch Gloucestershire, Local Healthwatch

In its latest report, Healthwatch Gloucestershire highlights how the rising cost of living is affecting people’s health, calling on those responsible for health and care in the county to improve support for those struggling to stay well.

As concerns about the cost of living continue to resonate both locally and nationally, the impact on people’s health and wellbeing is becoming apparent, particularly for those with limited financial resources who are finding it hard to pay for and access health care.

Healthwatch Gloucestershire’s report, Supporting people to stay healthy and well as the cost of living rises, analyses feedback from almost 400 local residents, and organisations involved in providing services, to identify common challenges faced by communities in Gloucestershire.

  • Choosing between essentials: Many people are grappling with the difficult choice between basic necessities like food, heating, routine medications, dental care, and essential care services for their loved ones. This financial strain is affecting both mental and physical health.
  • Pockets of poverty across the county: The research identifies pockets of poverty within every district of Gloucestershire, including areas typically considered more affluent, like Cheltenham and the Cotswolds.
  • The ‘working poor’ are badly affected: The report reveals that those in work who were ‘just about managing’ previously, are now struggling due to low household incomes, not qualifying for benefits, and costs associated with childcare and school-age children.
  • Lack of affordable transport: The lack of accessible and affordable patient and community transport, especially in rural areas and outside regular working hours, emerges as a major hindrance to accessing health and care services. This leads to increased stress and missed appointments, as well as wasted time for health services.

Healthwatch Gloucestershire makes several recommendations for how health and care providers could improve support to help those grappling with rising living costs access services.

  • Support and signposting: Train frontline healthcare staff to recognise and address issues related to the cost of living and improve signposting to relevant support services.
  • Prescription costs: Explore options to subsidise prescribed treatments, like the Warm Home prescription pilot scheme, for people at risk of health deterioration due to financial constraints.
  • Dental care: Improve availability of NHS dentist appointments, particularly for urgent cases.
  • Digital access: Ensure accurate and up-to-date information is available online to help people access services such as community transport, and increasing support for those who face barriers to using digital services.
  • Transportation: Collaborate to commission more reliable and affordable transport services, especially in rural area and off-peak hours, to make it easier for people to get to medical appointments.
  • Food security: Raise awareness about existing support schemes like the NHS Healthy Start programme and promote additional services provided by food banks.

Read the full report, including a detailed response from NHS Gloucestershire and comments from local residents

Healthwatch Gloucestershire’s report echoes national findings. Read Healthwatch England’s evidence on the problems people are facing and how they believe these can be reduced to ensure cost is not a barrier to accessing care:

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