Agenda item

Healthwatch - Cost of Living


Tony Gravett (Healthwatch) delivered a presentation on the ‘Cost of Living’, and highlighted the following points-


a)    At the beginning of the Cost of Living Crisis, Healthwatch England had started tracking 2,000 people over a 4 month period, to analyse the impact of rising costs on people’s health and wellbeing;


b)    The analysis had identified a significant impact for those who were disabled or on means-tested benefits, particularly the 18-24 age bracket. Many people had become more likely to avoid vital health and care services due to their associated costs, including prescriptions, transport to hospital, and dental treatment. Furthermore, access to GP services was largely conducted through telephone and online systems, which were more difficult to access for those on tight budgets, due to internet provision, and call charges;


c)    Following their findings, Healthwatch England had recommended to the Department for Health and Social Care, that Primary Care teams make patients aware of pre-payment options, Dental teams offer check-ups based on individual needed to free up capacity, and more people were made aware of the healthcare travel cost scheme;


d)    Healthwatch England had identified that around a half of respondents had avoided attending or booking a dental appointment due to the cost, a third had cut down on or stopped attending private services such as physio and  counselling, and half of the respondents had identified that these changes had negatively affected their ability to manage an ongoing condition. A third of people also identified that their mental health and wellbeing had deteriorated since making these changes;


e)    Healthwatch Plymouth, Devon and Torbay had conducted a local survey, which demonstrated similar results to national findings. Many people were therefore avoiding attending or scheduling medical appointments, due to the rising associated costs.


Following questions, the Board discussed-


f)     The role of Wellbeing Hubs in coordinating services for increasingly complex needs and tackling interlinking, holistic factors caused by the Cost of Living;


g)    The meaning and significance of the ‘Cost of Living’ as ‘the cost to survive and maintain health’ rather than a luxury;


h)    The integration of Pharmacists into Primary Care settings to monitor prescription uptake and collection performance.


The Board agreed to-


1.    Note the report;


2.    Request further information regarding the uptake of prescriptions, and how many were never collected;


3.    Recommend that the ICB work closely with Primary Care to raise awareness of financial challenges and barriers to accessing healthcare, particularly accentuated by the Cost of Living.




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