UK Policy Briefings
Spring Budget 2021: Health inequalities and Covid-19
Date Posted: Monday 1st March 2021
- The healthcare sector has been at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19. The pressures on the NHS have been immense and issues around funding and staff shortages have come to the fore.
- The pandemic hit after a decade with the longest spending squeeze in the history of the NHS: growth in spending was 1.6% during 2010-2019 (annual average), down from a 3.7% each year since it began in 1948.
- The health, social care and social work sectors are large employment sectors within the UK economy, employing around 4.4 million people in 2019. The workforce is predominantly female: 78% (3.45 million) employees in these sectors are women. However, these sectors are hierarchically structured by gender.
- The NHS currently has a shortage of 106,000 staff (9% of all posts) and it is estimated to need an additional 5,000 internationally recruited nurses every year to preventing worsening staff shortages. The pandemic has increased the pressures on existing staff, exacerbating long-standing issues of chronic excessive workloads and burnout.
- Staff shortages are likely to worsen with Brexit and the end of the EU freedom of movement. 71% of EU migrants who are ‘key workers’ would not be eligible for a UK work visa under the new immigration system. This includes essential non-medical NHS staff and social care workers.
- All minority ethnic groups other than Chinese women have been at higher risk of Covid-19 mortality than the White ethnic population.
- During the coronavirus pandemic in England, Covid-19 mortality levels were 8 times higher for Black African men, and 2.9 times higher for Black African women than the White ethnic population.