IPPR report warns nation’s health held back by UK economy

By Lydia O'Neill on 29 April 2022 Midwifery Midwives MSWs - Maternity Support Workers Midwifery Workforce Midwife Shortage Caring For You campaign Stress

A new report from the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR), published to mark the launch of its Commission on Health and Prosperity, warns that growing health inequalities and ineffective Government policies are resulting in people living shorter lives, with more years spent in poor health, and facing greater barriers to staying in and getting on at work.

According to the report, Government inaction to improve the nation’s health is holding back the UK economy. IPPR believes that because health in the UK is fundamental to building a fair society, it follows that a fairer country is a healthier one, and that a healthier country is a more prosperous one. Accordingly, health is not a cost to be contained, but a keystone in a society and economy that delivers both prosperity and justice.

The report comes from a two-year project that maps a way forward from the twin shocks to the economy and to health services that have been impacted by COVID.

Sean O'Sullivan, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) Head of Health and Social Policy, said: “We welcome the launch of the Commission and this report, which reinforces our notion that reducing inequality in maternity care is in part, about addressing inequity that women and families face – as well as the depleting workforce in maternity and the wider NHS.”

The IPPR analysis shows that there are now more than a million workers missing from the workforce compared to the pre-pandemic trend and about 400,000 of these are no longer working because of health factors, such as long COVID, disruption to health care and declining mental health.

Sean added: “The Government needs to face up to this deepening crisis in a climate of poorer health, energy prices and inflation. Unless it wants to worsen outcomes, it must give midwives, MSWs and other NHS staff a fair and decent pay rise. 

“When it comes to women and families we have seen from MBRRACE-UK and NMPA reports the correlation between huge inequities in outcomes in maternity care for women from ethnic minorities and those who live in poverty.

“We have made headway with some guidance to support informed decision making on place of birth and types of birth, as well as the RCM care outside guidelines guidance. However, the Government must step in to do more to address the socio-economic factors outside the powers of safe and quality maternity care.”

The RCM values the contribution that IPPR is making to the debate around health and economic wellbeing and social justice, and we look forward to working with IPPR in the future.