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Poverty is a social and economic condition that makes an individual unable to have access to basic amenities of life. The healthcare industry in the UK has evolved with advancements in the technical and medical field. But is the country able to transfer the benefits of these developments to the bottom of the pyramid, that is, poverty-stricken public? It has been found out that one individual out of three has suffered due to relative poverty at a certain point in life. This report assesses the direct relationship between poverty and the healthcare system of the UK (Das, 2015).
Before commencing the report, it is vital to comprehend the meaning of poverty in the UK government definition. It defines poverty as the state where the income of a household is less than 60 percent of the average per capita national income. This definition helps us to assess who will be eligible to access the policies formulated by the UK government. And how it is significant in the healthcare sector (Luchinskaya et al., 2017).
Poverty has an impact at all stages of life as health at every stage goes through transition and can be vulnerable to diseases. This results in an increase in mortality rate, decreased life expectancy, chronic disease, and diet-related illnesses. Inability to pay for basic requirements of health increases the chances of diseases and illnesses (Das, 2015). This implies a greater need for medical facilities and that too at a feasible rate. Inaccessibility of people in the UK has created a chaotic situation for poor people and trapped them in a vicious cycle of degrading health and inability to have access to a quality healthcare system. the cognitive ability of children is significantly hampered due to a lack of access to optimum health alternatives. Social inequality impedes (Wickham et al., 2016).
Lack of healthy alternatives does not only affect the physical state of the individual but also affects the mental and social health of the person. Depression cases have surged due to an increase in relative poverty in the country. The government of the UK has been coming up with new policies and amendments in existing policies and programs but consideration of the root cause has been omitted. Accident rates are higher in the poor segment of society (Anakwenze and Zuberi, 2013). Children do not get access to a quality balanced diet and suffer from the deficiency of vital nutrients. Deficiency in vital nutrients leads to chronic diseases. Social inequality mushroomed out of poverty leads to anxiety and demotivation among poor children. It has been observed that people who face the consequence of relative people are prone to mental health illnesses due to stress and anxiety in their lives (Das, 2015). It also results in a lack of a conducive environment for children to learn and grow and impedes their prospects. When these children grow up, they are incapable to compete with their colleagues due to a lack of significant skills and aptitude.
Teenage is the most complex age period in an individual's life and the person must have optimum health from a holistic point of view. Poor teenagers fall prey to addictions and criminal activities due to lack of emotional support, anxiety issues, and peer pressure (Anakwenze and Zuberi, 2013).
Adulthood is a period where individuals work to earn a living and enhance their quality of life. Poor people face hardships due to a lack of skills and efficiency to exploit their potential at work and are subject to class inequality that affects their mental health. Inability to pay for costlier alternatives for health leads to the adoption of stress and an unhealthy lifestyle (Burns, 2015).
Old age is a stage where individuals face many health problems due to decreased immunity and stagnant development and growth of body and mind. Poverty impedes optimum functionality of the body and leads to mental illnesses.
Lone parents, children, and disabled individuals are prone to poverty and require a resilient support system from the government to lead a decent life. Individuals belonging to low-income groups face multiple problems like survival, growth, and managing resources that make it hard for these people to look after their health and fall prey to mental, physical, and emotional problems (Anakwenze and Zuberi, 2013).
Private healthcare insurance costs approximately £1435 per year to an individual. Medical facilities like surgeries and treatment are expensive due to a shortage of practitioners and high quality of healthcare services. Medicines are also heavily priced but the government provides incentives to people belonging to the low-income group (Bramley et al., 2016). Access to healthy food items is also quite expensive for people from the lower-income group. Accommodation and housing facilities are not feasible for lower-income groups. Paying rent, bills, and purchasing food items constitute a major part of their earnings. Public services, however, provide relief but the indigenous health issues are still the same. Mental health is the main aspect that gets affected directly by poverty. Social Inequality created by the market and societal forces impedes the growth of a person and leads to mental problems like stress and anxiety (Burns, 2015). Mental problems have many other consequential damages to the body as people tend to fall for liquor and drug addiction. Continuous rise in inflation, unemployability, and stagnant income is the root cause of poverty. Addressing these causes is necessary in order to make holistic health accessible by all residents as well as residents. The government needs to bridge the gap of inequality and social status to deal with mental illness. Eradicating the root cause will accelerate the social and economic growth of the country and it will make the country achieve health targets at a larger scale (Burns, 2015).
The health and well-being of the disadvantaged segment of the society have been included in the BMA's report implicitly. From the same report, we can discern that the country's situation has not changed considerably for the poor segment of the society. Addressing poverty in Healthcare is not free of cost. About a quarter of all the spending in healthcare by the UK government is assigned to poverty-stricken conditions (Appleby, 2016). Optimum health is significant for the country’s development and proper functioning of economic activities by individuals as well as firms (Bramley et al., 2016).
NHS or National Health Service was commenced under the National Health Service Act of 1946 to promote and make holistic healthcare accessible by all residents of the UK. NHS budget is formulated to bridge the gap of inequalities and make optimum health attainable by all income groups of the society (Appleby, 2016).
Public health insurance is aimed to provide quality health services to the low-income group. Taxes from different sources are used to fund NHS and other public healthcare services. Services included in the policies formulated by NHS are maternity care, necessary dental care, physician services, eye care, inpatient and outpatient hospital care, and preventive services. It also provides exemptions on prescribed drugs to individuals below 15 years of age, older than 60 years, people with low income, pregnant women, and full-time students of 16 to 18 years old. People with severe illnesses like cancer also get free services from NHS. There are other methods to apply for financial assistance from the govt policies (Luchinskaya et al., 2017).
There has been a shortage of doctors and practitioners in the UK and therefore the government has set an amount in the budget to provide incentives to practitioners and fill the vacant places all across the UK. But the root cause of poverty is still not addressed effectively (Wickham et al., 2016). Providing basic requirements like quality food at feasible prices is still a far cry. The government needs to undertake economic measures to optimize inflation and promote awareness about holistic health. It might be a complex task to formulate a structure to assist the lower-income group to have access to healthy alternatives (Luchinskaya et al., 2017).
Bring down educational costs can also lead to increased quality and number of medical practitioners and it will lead to an increased number of general physicians to meet the requirement of the market (Luchinskaya et al., 2017).
From the report, it can be deduced that health is directly related to the income level of the individual. Poverty makes an individual unable to aid his/her health judiciously and this has resulted in a rise in health degradation of individuals significantly. Some of the notable consequences are reduced life expectancy, high mortality rates, and increased diseases and illnesses. The UK government has been spending on the healthcare sector but there is scope for improvement to link the poor segment to the healthcare facilities in the country. The direct link of health with poverty makes the aspect of low-income class and social inequality crucial to the objective of the country and improve healthcare from a holistic viewpoint.
Anakwenze, U. and Zuberi, D., 2013. Mental health and poverty in the inner city. Health & social work, 38(3), pp.147-157.
Appleby, J., 2016. Is the UK spending more than we thought on healthcare (and much less on social care)?. Bmj, 353.
Bramley, G., Hirsch, D., Littlewood, M. and Watkins, D., 2016. Counting the cost of UK poverty.
Burns, J.K., 2015. Poverty, inequality and a political economy of mental health. Epidemiology and psychiatric sciences, 24(2), pp.107-113.
Das, V., 2015. Affliction: health, disease, poverty. Fordham Univ Press.
Luchinskaya, D., Simpson, P. and Stoye, G., 2017. UK health and social care spending. In The IFS Green Budget 2017 (pp. 141-176).
Wickham, S., Anwar, E., Barr, B., Law, C. and Taylor-Robinson, D., 2016. Poverty and child health in the UK: using evidence for action. Archives of disease in childhood, 101(8), pp.759-766.
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