Responding to the Health Foundation's analysis of the number of people in work who have 'work-limiting' conditions, Dr Layla McCay, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, said:
“The number of people currently in work who report having a ‘work-limiting’ condition has gone up by 60% in the last decade, and now make up 12% of the working population, suggesting that general population health may have declined in line with over a decade of NHS underfunding.
“Action is clearly needed to support employees with ill health, but these findings also reinforce the importance of a fully functioning health and care service that not only helps people get better but prevents illness in the first place.
“The case for investment is self-evident, with research showing that for every £1 invested in health there is a return of £4 to the wider economy, and getting people off waiting lists will help many back to full fitness, reducing the limits on their ability to work.
“This timely report also finds that musculoskeletal and cardiovascular conditions remain the most common form of work-limiting health conditions, confirming that, along with mental health, the priorities of the forthcoming major conditions strategy are the right ones.
“Health leaders know that the pandemic, followed shortly by a cost-of-living crisis, inevitably had a drastic effect on younger people’s mental health, and this report makes clear that the rise in work-limiting conditions has been driven by a sharp increase in mental ill-health, which has increased more than four-fold among 16-34-year-olds.
“Mental wellbeing in young people is crucial, as 3 in 4 mental health conditions present before the age of 24, but despite this the government is currently only committed to providing mental health support teams in just over one in four schools. To embed a preventative, life course approach, and reduce regional inequality, we must see commitment from the government to fund mental health support teams in all schools.
“We also need government health strategy to look beyond how the NHS treats these conditions and embed a health in all policies approach across government to keep people healthy in their working years and beyond.”
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