Rising Long-Term Sickness Crisis Leaves Record 2.6 Million People Out of Work in the UK.

Impact of Covid-19 and NHS Backlog Contribute to Alarming Increase

August 17, 2023 – The United Kingdom is grappling with a staggering surge in long-term sickness cases, resulting in an alarming record of 2.6 million individuals being out of the labor force in 2022 due to health-related issues. This concerning trend, recently revealed by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), signifies a distressing rise of 500,000 people since the outset of the pandemic in 2020.

Long-term sickness is characterized by an inability to work for more than four weeks due to illness or disability. The causes for this widespread issue range from mental health problems and musculoskeletal disorders to respiratory diseases. According to experts, the prolonged impact of Covid-19 is playing a significant role in this phenomenon, with the lingering effects of long Covid affecting countless individuals, regardless of their age or the severity of their initial infection.

Pandemic Fallout and NHS Disruption

The ripple effects of Covid-19 have taken a toll on individuals’ health in more ways than one. The persistence of debilitating symptoms such as fatigue, breathlessness, and cognitive impairment, collectively referred to as long Covid, has led to an unfortunate prolongation of health issues, often preventing individuals from resuming their work responsibilities.

Furthermore, the overburdened National Health Service (NHS) waiting lists have created an additional hurdle in the path to recovery. As of June 2023, the backlog of individuals awaiting hospital treatment in England had reached a staggering 5.8 million, an unprecedented number since records began in 2007. The resulting delays in necessary medical procedures have exacerbated health conditions and hindered individuals from returning to work promptly.

Socioeconomic Consequences

The consequences of this burgeoning long-term sickness crisis are not confined to individual suffering; they extend to societal and economic dimensions as well. Isolation, depression, economic hardship, and diminished quality of life are some of the personal implications individuals and their families face. On a larger scale, the economy is burdened with lost productivity, escalated benefit expenditures, and decreased tax revenues.

Addressing the Crisis

Experts are calling for comprehensive measures to mitigate this crisis and provide effective support to individuals out of work due to long-term sickness. These recommendations include enhanced accessibility to occupational health services, an emphasis on workplace health and safety improvement, the introduction of flexible working arrangements, and ensuring adequate sick pay and benefits for affected individuals.

Furthermore, experts are urging the government to make substantial investments in the NHS to alleviate waiting times for treatments and procedures, facilitating swifter recoveries and allowing individuals to regain their footing in the workforce.





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