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

Long-term sickness could cost the economy £18.3 billion under Conservatives. Lib Dems propose mental health MOTs to address crisis.
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The Liberal Democrats have announced a plan for 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 the party’s new commitment would “help people get back to work.” Analysis reveals that long-term sickness could cost the economy £18.3 billion over the next Parliament.

Record levels of long-term sickness under the Conservatives are set to create an £18.3 billion deficit in public finances over the next Parliament, according to new analysis by the Liberal Democrats. The party attributes this to Rishi Sunak’s failure to reduce NHS waiting lists, which 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 2.8 million people were out of work due to ill health in February 2024, an increase of 700,000 since the start of this Parliament in 2019. This rise in long-term sickness is leading to a loss of almost £3.7 billion in 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 due to long-term sickness reported having a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety, or bad nerves.

The Liberal Democrats are calling for regular mental health check-ups at key points in people’s lives 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.

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 includes an additional £70m a year invested in Talking Therapies by 2028-29, funded through a clampdown on tax evasion.

Liberal 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.”

Ryan Fowler

Ryan Fowler is Publisher of Workplace Journal

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