healthcare in the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom began its National Healthcare System (NHS) in 1948 with a mission to make healthcare available to all regardless of their ability to pay. Since its creation, the NHS has grown in its capacity to prevent illnesses and improve the mental and physical health of the population.

Numerous local and national organizations support the NHS such as clinical commissioning groups, charities and research institutes. These all compile to create the healthcare system. A general and payroll tax primarily fund the NHS, allowing patients in England to receive NHS services without charge. From emergency to non-urgent cases, healthcare in the U.K. seeks to put patients first by surveying the success of patients’ outcomes.

For those “ordinarily resident” in England or those with a European Health Insurance Card, coverage is universal. In fact, in most cases coverage is free. The NHS Constitution states that patients have rights to drugs and treatments when deemed necessary and approved by their physician. Through the NHS’s services, primary care, specialized care, longterm care, after-hours care and mental health care available.

What is the Role of the Government?

The Health Act (2006) requires that the Secretary of State has a legal duty to promote comprehensive healthcare services to the public free of charge. The NHS Constitution outlines the rights for those eligible for national healthcare, including access to care without discrimination and prompt hospital care. While the Department of Health supervises the overall health system, the day-to-day responsibilities rest with NHS England. In addition, the local government authorities hold the budgets for public health.

Ensuring Quality and Reducing Disparities

Research shows healthcare quality is worse for those living in poverty in England. The health gap between the rich and poor has widened over the past few years. The more economically deprived an area is, the more quality-deprived those same struggling areas are. Underfunded local services lead to poorer health of the most vulnerable.

Strategies to reduce inequality include monitoring statistics of access and outcomes, particularly for at-risk groups. The requirement to host “health and well-being boards” mitigates local government authorities’ relative autonomy in creating budgets for public health in their communities. These boards aim to improve the coordination of local services and reduce disparities.

What is the Impact of COVID-19?

The COVID-19 pandemic makes health inequalities in the United Kingdom more visible. Those who live in the most deprived areas have a higher risk of contracting the virus. Fortunately, citizens have largely obeyed the government’s social distancing pleas, limiting the spread of the virus. However, this comes with social and economic consequences for those who were already suffering from inequality.

The weight of the pandemic does not fall evenly on society. Adjusting for age, those who live in poorer areas have faced more than double the deaths compared to those in richer areas. Additionally, research has found that minority ethnic communities have a higher risk of death from the virus. The reasons for this are complicated and research on these issues is advancing. However, discrimination and the resulting lack of socio-economic opportunities for these groups in education and employment can lead to their overall health being disproportionately impaired.

Solutions

To help healthcare in the United Kingdom obtain equal accessibility and quality, acting against the systemic barriers facing minority groups and encouraging overall economic development that will enable healthier living for all is necessary. Increased government support for the NHS and its relating voluntary and community sectors could mitigate the pandemic’s devastating effects.

Well Communities is an example of a nonprofit organization in the United Kingdom that empowers local communities to reduce inequalities. By working on the neighborhood level, Well Communities addresses specific concerns in improving local coordination through training and engagement around a themed project. Past projects have promoted healthy eating, exercise, mental health, employment, green spaces, culture and arts.

More than 18,700 individuals participated in Well Communities’ Well London activities, representing 35 percent of the population in that neighborhood. The outcome exceeded the targeted goals. Strikingly, 82 percent reported increases in physical activity and 54 percent reported an increase in mental wellbeing. Additionally, 60 percent reported increased levels of volunteering.

These statistically significant changes in the community indicate the value of organizations like Well Communities’ work. With more organizations implementing programs like these, there is hope to reconcile the increasing inequalities of healthcare in the United Kingdom.

COVID-19 and its lockdown will deepen inequalities unless the U.K. mounts a great effort. Through much-needed increased government support for the NHS and its relating voluntary and community sectors, the U.K. is working to abolish inequality in healthcare.

– Mia McKnight 
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Fuel Poverty
Also known as energy poverty, fuel poverty occurs when a family cannot afford to keep their home at a safe and comfortable temperature. Many commonly overlook it as an aspect of living in a low-income situation, so these eight facts about fuel poverty should provide the basic knowledge necessary to understand the concept.

8 Facts About Fuel Poverty

  1. Fuel poverty is a relatively recent concept. Brenda Boardman published the first book about fuel poverty in 1991. The book, entitled “Fuel Poverty,” served as an essential introduction to the topic. Since its publication, there has been an increase in research and awareness about fuel poverty.
  2. The definition changes in warm areas. The majority of discussions about fuel poverty pertain to how people cannot afford to warm their homes. However, in warmer climates, a lack of fuel presents other struggles such as no lighting or cooking methods. Moving forward, most of the facts about fuel poverty will discuss fuel poverty in colder areas.
  3. The British Isles has been at the center of the discussion about fuel poverty. Historically, a lot of the action and research surrounding fuel poverty has occurred in the British Isles. This might be due to a combination of a cold and wet climate and poor housing quality. Although fuel poverty can occur in a lot of places, the British Isles has been very vocal about its citizens’ struggles with fuel poverty and what it is doing to address the problem.
  4. Fuel poverty has multiple causes. When examining why fuel poverty occurs, there are often multiple factors that converge to result in a home lacking proper energy services. The main causes of fuel poverty are low income, high energy prices, poor energy efficiency (i.e. poor insulation or heating systems) and under-occupancy.
  5. Fuel poverty has a clear measurement system. In 2013, England adopted a Low Income High Cost (LIHC) method of determining the criteria for fuel poverty. It considers a household to be in fuel poverty if it has above average fuel costs and that those costs would leave them with a residual income below the official poverty line. Because most fuel poverty research comes out of England, others have widely adopted this system.
  6. A lot of households are at risk. Around 20 percent of households in Europe experienced fuel poverty in 2018. Some characteristics increase a household’s risk of facing fuel poverty, such as possessing a household member with a disability or long-term illness, as some factors increase physiological needs for energy services.
  7. Fuel poverty can have serious consequences. Living in a cold house can worsen pre-existing conditions, causing related morbidity and mortality. In the U.K. in 2016, 3,200 excess winter deaths linked directly to people experiencing fuel poverty.
  8. There are steps to help. A study in the U.K. in 2019 found that making people aware of the risks that occur with living in a cold home and providing thermometers to track temperatures can actually improve people’s living conditions. It can also be beneficial to alert citizens about grants and programs available to them to assist with the costs of energy services.

Hopefully, these facts about fuel poverty have provided some fundamental knowledge about the topic. One can easily overlook fuel poverty, but it forces people to make difficult sacrifices and can sometimes result in negative health consequences. The issue has been coming into the light more in recent years as politicians and organizations work to help those who cannot afford to maintain a safe and comfortable home.

– Lindsey Shinkle
Photo: Pixabay

 

United Kingdom living conditions
While enjoying one of the most advanced economies in the world today, The United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) is not without its problems. This list examines the top 10 facts about living conditions in the U.K.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in the UK

  1. It’s expensive to live in the United Kingdom. The Price Index for the city of London is 222. This score indicates that food, rent and other necessities are more than twice as expensive in London than they are in the average global city. Sheffield, the lowest ranked British city by this index has a price index of 132. Average rent for a small studio apartment in the U.K. is $972.96, and a dozen eggs cost $3.49.
  2. U.K. unemployment is low. Unemployment in the U.K. was 4.2 percent during March-May 2018, while Northern Ireland nearly broke a new record with the low rate of 3.5 percent. For comparison, Northern Ireland’s rate shortly after the recession of 2008 was 8.2 percent.
  3. U.K. poverty is also low. According to the Office for National Statistics, 7.3 percent of the U.K.’s population experience persistent poverty. Conditions are slightly worse for women, since 8.2 percent of the female population experience persistent poverty, compared to only 6.3 percent of the male population. Great Britain and Northern Ireland overall have a poverty rate of 16.7 percent, and this is slightly lower than 17.3 percent, the average for the European Union.
  4. U.K. quality of life is quite high. A recent study on the quality of life ranked the United Kingdom at the fifth place out of all European nations. This list looked at broadband speed, pollution, cost of living and many other factors. Out of everyone in the study, the U.K. spent the most percentage of its GDP on recreation and culture.
  5. Absolute poverty is rising among U.K. children. Children in the U.K. are at risk for rising absolute child poverty. Absolute poverty is defined as residing in a household that cannot maintain a basic standard of living (shelter, clothing and food) due to a low income. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the Economic & Social Research Council found that absolute child poverty in U.K. is predicted to increase by four points. This rise is likely caused by a recent cut in government benefits for low-income families with children.
  6. It’s safer for women to give birth outside the U.K. According to Save the Children’s annual State of the World’s Mothers Report, women giving birth in the U.K. have more than double the chance of dying during pregnancy or childbirth than women in Poland. Out of the top 25 countries in the world for mothers, the U.K. ranked 24th.
  7. According to the Centre of Economic and Business Research, it costs £230,000 (almost $300,000) to raise a child in the U.K. For a comparison, it costs roughly $234,000 to raise a child in the United States. There are several factors that could contribute to this, including lower food costs in the United States and greater land resources.
  8. The U.K. ranks highly in women’s equality. The World Economic Forum publishes an annual Global Gender Gap Report that ranks nations from best to worst in terms of women’s “economic participation, educational attainment, health and political empowerment”. In Western Europe, the United Kingdom took 15th place.
  9. The average woman makes 20 percent less than the average man. Beyond incomes, 80 percent of women in the U.K. engage in some sort of daily house upkeep while one out of three men engages in the same work. About half of working women and a third of working men also spend at least an hour a day caring for children or an elderly or disabled person. Not only are women making less money at work, but they’re also engaging in a lot of strenuous, unpaid work. However, many leaders actively fight against this. London Mayor Sadiq Khan published the first “gender pay audit” to make the government pay completely transparent. He also implemented programs to ensure flexibility and fair recruitment.
  10. The U.K. has a lot of work to do in terms of racial equality. To understand diversity and equality, Prime Minister Theresa May ordered research on this subject. While 4 percent of white Brits were unemployed, 10 percent of black and mixed Brits were unemployed. Black males were most likely to remain in custody rather than let out on bail. Organizations like Equality and Diversity Forum are combating these trends through policy work. This organization is a national group bringing together different peoples and organizations to combat oppression and fight for human rights in the country.

Despite a high cost of living, the U.K. has a thriving and diverse country. While it could certainly do better in terms of racial and gender equality it certainly represents one of the best places to live in the world. Although not entirely positive, the top 10 facts about living conditions in the United Kingdom show a thriving, healthy country.

– Sarah Stanley
Photo: Flickr

Learning in EnglandIt has been increasingly difficult for young people to access arts and culture. School art provisions are declining rapidly. The total estimated cost spent in England and Wales on educational art services for 2016/2017 is projected to fall another 13 percent from 2015.

As a result, there has been a decline in English children becoming involved in art subjects, a reduction in art teaching hours and fewer art teachers employed in schools. Informal programs have also suffered due to local authority cuts.

The Cultural Learning Alliance (CLA) exists to address these issues. The alliance is a collective voice working to ensure that all children have meaningful access to cultural programs. Its goals are to advocate for a coherent national strategy for cultural learning, to unite the education, youth and cultural sectors, to showcase projects and demonstrate why cultural learning is so important.

The CLA first published the Imagine Nation report in 2011 to set the agenda for a national conversation about the value of cultural learning. The following statistics were included in the 2017 version of the report and outline the benefits of cultural learning:

  • Participation in structured arts activities can increase cognitive abilities by 17 percent.
  • Students from low-income families who take part in arts activities at school are three times more likely to graduate. These students are also 20 percent more likely to vote as young adults.
  • Studying art subjects increases the likelihood of students maintaining employment.
  • People who take part in the arts are 38 percent more likely to report good health.
  • Employability of students who study arts subjects is higher.

David Puttnam, the chairman of the CLA, has described the report as a wake-up call to boost cultural learning in England. “It is essential that access to arts is a right and not a privilege,” he says.

Similarly, Michelle Obama has stated that “Arts education…is the air many of these kids breathe. It’s how we get kids excited about getting up and going to school in the morning. It’s how we get them to take ownership of their future.”

The Imagine Nation report has resulted in a “call to arms” to boost cultural learning in England. According to the report, “we must act now to ensure that the next generation is given all the tools it needs to build a stronger, healthier society.”

Liliana Rehorn

Photo: Flickr