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Mind the gap: The cost-of-living crisis and the rise in inequalities in Wales

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The Welsh NHS Confederation Health and Wellbeing Alliance, in partnership with the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), is calling on the Welsh government to produce a cross-government plan to reduce poverty and tackle inequalities.

This report comes as research finds that 60% of people in Wales feel their health has been negatively affected by the rising cost of living, according to a YouGov poll commissioned by the RCP. 90% said this was due to increased heating costs; over three quarters (76%) said it was a result of the rising cost of food and almost half (45%) said it was down to increased transport costs. 72% said that other fixed bills (council tax, water etc) were also having a negative impact on their mental or physical health. 

Health inequalities – unfair and avoidable differences in health and access to healthcare across the population, and between different groups within society – have long been an issue, but the COVID-19 pandemic and the rising cost of living has exacerbated them.

Respiratory conditions such as asthma and COPD are often made worse by air pollution or exposure to mould in poor-quality housing. Recently, a debt counselling charity warned that the proportion of people in arrears with their energy bills in Wales is worse than any other part of the UK, which is pushing people into mental health crises.

That is why the Welsh NHS Confederation Health and Wellbeing Alliance is calling for cross-government action to reduce inequalities and tackle poor housing, food quality, community safety, low incomes, fuel poverty, racism and discrimination, poor transport links and air pollution – many of which are outside the remit of health and social care services.