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Sick note Britain to get even worse! Major illnesses to strike 700,000 more by 2040


Sad depressed woman lying on bed at home, feeling sad after break up

2.8 million people are already out of work with long-term problems (Image: Getty)

Some 700,000 more workers will be suffering from major illnesses such as chronic pain, type 2 diabetes and depression by 2040, a report warns.

The Health Foundation estimated that rising levels of ill health in England will see the number affected soar by a quarter from 3 million in 2019 to 3.7 million.

It is unclear how many of these people will be working at that point, will remain at work, might cut their hours due to illness, or may need to leave the workforce altogether.

The stark projection paints a worrying picture of the future of “sick note Britain”. Separate figures from the Office for National Statistics recently showed record levels of economic inactivity, with 2.8 million people out of work with long-term health problems.

Jo Bibby, director of health at the Health Foundation, said: “Good health is our most precious asset, and a healthy workforce is the backbone of any thriving economy.

READ MORE: Increase in working from home has inflamed UK’s exploding sick note epidemic

Man, crutches and relax on sofa in home with injury, recovery and healthcare with pain in living room. Black person, walking aid and medical problem o

Chronic pain, anxiety and depression are among conditions set to have an impact (Image: Getty)

“We are already seeing the impact of poor health on the economy, with record numbers of people out of the workforce.

“Without action, the number of working-age people living with major illness is set to increase, particularly in the most deprived areas of the country.”

The charity’s report found around 80 percent of the increase would be in the most deprived 50 percent of areas.

This is expected to widen health inequalities between the wealthiest and the poorest, leaving people in the most deprived locations likely to develop major illnesses ten years earlier than those in the least deprived areas.

The most deprived are also three times more likely to die before the age of 70.

A Government target to improve healthy life expectancy by five years by 2035 and narrow the health gap is on track to be “missed by a significant margin”, the report adds.

Worried and Exhausted Businessman

Experts said the report must be a wake up call for politicians (Image: Getty)

The charity called for all political parties to set out detailed plans for action to improve the health of Britain’s workforce.

The report was the second from a research programme led by the Health Foundation’s Real Centre in partnership with the University of Liverpool.

Ann Raymond, economist at the Health Foundation’s REAL Centre, said:

“This report should be a wake-up call for politicians ahead of the General Election about the need for action to address rising ill health – our future health and prosperity as a nation depends on it.”

Katie Schmuecker, principal policy adviser, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said the report was right to highlight poor housing, low income and insecure employment as drivers of health inequality.

She said: “Something serious is happening with our nation’s health, with declines in life expectancy for some groups and many thousands of people developing major long term conditions while still of working age.

“All of these factors need serious attention from our politicians because without more understanding of the causes, it will be impossible to design the right forms of support for people who have become too unwell to work.

“There is a very real danger that we allow the health gap between the better off and the worst off to grow and expand, with tragic consequences.”

If policymakers fail to act, they will risk “overwhelming our public services, damaging our economy and undermining the social security system which should protect us all when times are hard,” Ms Schmuecker added.

The report warned that the NHS – particularly GP services – must prepare for higher levels of demand and step up efforts to prevent ill health and intervene early.

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive at NHS Providers, said the findings were “worrying but sadly not surprising given the cuts to public health and prevention services over the years”.

She added: “More support and funding for public health services is vital to ensure a healthier population. Prevention is better than cure.
“National support is vitally needed for local councils to meaningfully improve the health and wellbeing of their communities. Without it, demand for already-stretched NHS services will rise even further.

“A whole-government approach is needed to prevent ill health, starting with tackling the root causes of why some people – such as those living in poverty and in deprived areas, as well as ethnic minorities and people with learning disabilities – are more likely to have worse physical and mental health.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Our Major Conditions Strategy will help with the management of conditions responsible for poor health and early death through proactive prevention, early diagnosis and aligning services to manage multiple conditions and health needs.

“NHS England is working to reduce health inequalities and improve the health outcomes of the poorest 20 percent of the population, regardless of where they live.

“Our Back to Work Plan, backed by £2.5 billion, is also helping more people into work – including those living with long-term health conditions – so everyone can reach their full potential.”

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