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Long-term sickness risks £18 billion black hole under Conservatives as Lib Dems call for mental health MOTs

by Ian Shires on 5 June, 2024

Rishi Sunak admits he has failed to cut NHS waiting lists

  • The Liberal Democrats announce regular mental health ‘MOT’ checks at key points in people’s lives including for new parents and retirees
  • Ed Davey said the Prime Minister’s “failure to cut NHS waiting lists is damaging the economy” and party’s new commitment would “help people get back to work”
  • Analysis reveals that over the course of the next Parliament long-term sickness could cost the economy £18.3 billion

Record levels of long-term sickness under the Conservatives are set to blow an £18.3 billion black hole in the public finances over the next Parliament, new analysis by the Liberal Democrats has revealed.

The party said it shows that Rishi Sunak’s failure to bring down NHS waiting lists is holding the economy back and costing taxpayers billions.

Each person out of work due to long-term illness costs an average of £5,200 in lost tax revenue, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility. The latest figures show a shocking 2.8 million people were out of work due to ill health in February 2024, up around 700,000 compared to the start of this Parliament in 2019. It means the rise in long-term sickness under the Conservative Party is leading to a staggering loss of almost £3.7 billion in lost tax revenue per year, or £18.3 billion over the next parliament.

Rishi Sunak recently admitted the government has failed to cut NHS waiting lists with 6.3 million people still waiting for treatment, double the number since 2015. Over 1.35 million (53%) of those inactive because of long-term sickness reported that they had a mental health condition such as depression, bad nerves or anxiety.

The Liberal Democrats are calling for the introduction of regular mental health check-ups at key points in people’s lives when they are most vulnerable, to help tackle the root causes of the mental health crisis. This would include new parents, children and young people, men in their 40s, carers and retirees, all of whom are at high risk of mental ill health.

To improve mental health care the Liberal Democrats would boost funding for NHS talking therapies, making them available to an additional 100,000 people over the next Parliament. The plan would see an additional £70m a year invested in Talking Therapies by 2028-29, funded through a clampdown on tax evasion.

Sir Ed Davey: New leader is a veteran of Liberal Democrat politics |  Shropshire StarLiberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

Rishi Sunak’s failure to cut NHS waiting lists is damaging the economy and blowing a hole in the public finances. Years of Conservative chaos have left us with a sick economy and a health service on its knees.

Millions of people are struggling to see a GP, waiting months in pain for hospital treatment or struggling to access mental health support, leading to record numbers on long-term sick leave.

The country cannot afford another five years of Conservative failure on the NHS. The Liberal Democrats would fix the NHS crisis to get the economy firing on all cylinders again, including through regular mental health checks to help support people at vulnerable points in their lives.

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