OVER 400,000 workers across the UK have been lost to the workforce due to health factors such as long Covid, disruption to health care and declining mental health, according to recent analysis.

A new report from the IPPR think tank, published to mark the launch of a new Commission on Health and Prosperity, has warned that a combination of major health inequalities throughout the UK and ineffective government policy means that people are living shorter lives, spending more years living with poor health, and consequently face greater barriers to becoming or staying employed.

The report’s findings reveal that there are now more than a million workers missing from the overall UK workforce compared to the pre-pandemic trend, with 400,000 of these absent due to health factors. IPPR argues that unless that unresolved, this will drag down economic activity this year by an estimated £8 billion, and that such health concerns are also a decisive factor in low productivity, low grow and regional inequalities throughout the UK.

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As part of the think tank’s new cross-party Health and Prosperity Commission, the think thank has advocated a new post-pandemic approach to the UK’s health.

Dame Sally Davies, former Chief Medical Officer and co-chair of IPPR’s cross-party Commission on Health and Prosperity, said: “A fairer country is a healthier one, and a healthier country is a more prosperous one. While the restrictions have eased, the scars of the pandemic still remain deep on the nation’s health and our economy.

“Not only are we facing a severe cost-of-living crisis, driven in part by pandemic-induced inflation, we’re also experiencing a workforce shortage driven by poor health that’s holding back the economy. It has never been more important to put good health at the heart of our society and economy – and our commission will bring forward a plan to do just that.”

Commission head Chris Thomas also commented: “As the government moves to a ‘living with Covid’ strategy, politicians must not forget how intrinsically linked our health is to our economic fortunes. 

“Policymakers can take immediate steps to make it easier for people dealing with long Covid and other health complications back to work, but they must also take decisive action to improve our health overall and tackle our nation’s burning health and economic inequalities. An unthinking return to the status quo would be a grotesque injustice to all who have lost their lives and livelihoods. We must build back better.”