Cost of living: People choosing between essentials and putting health at risk, report finds

Carol has been forced her to get private healthcare, something she says she’s only able to do because she doesn’t have children. Credit: ITV News

Gloucestershire residents say they are choosing between essentials, struggling with mental health, and putting their health at risk due to the cost of living crisis, a new report has found.

Steven, a pensioner who lives alone, says he worries about money on a daily basis, as his outgoings have increased by around 50%. Without money inherited from his late mother, he says he'd struggle to survive.

He said: "I have a lot of savings, so I don’t qualify for benefits, but the cost of everything means I’ll work through those savings very quickly.

"It’s going at such an alarming rate; a couple of years and I could be broke."

He added that he's had to turn to warm spaces and lunch clubs to stay warm and fed throughout the day. 

"All you do is cut, cut, cut," he said. "You’ve got to be so careful.

"I’ll check the next couple of bank statements and look through carefully, and then there’ll probably be more cuts."

"All you do is cut, cut, cut," Steven told ITV News. Credit: ITV News

On top of this, Steven is now looking at whether he can pay for private healthcare for a hip replacement as he’s been waiting years for it on the NHS. Due to a recent diabetes diagnosis, he’s been taken off the waiting list and is on medication for the pain. 

"The NHS isn’t what it was, it is broken," he said. "I don’t know whether to go private, I’ve been considering it, but it would cost about £20,000."

Another resident, Layla, says she's neglecting her own health and risking debt due to the cost of emergency dental work for her son.

He needed £400 worth of dental care after cracking two teeth, but there were no NHS appointments so she had to go private. 

"I will go without and go into debt to get my kids seen."

Milly had real problems getting to her physio appointments. Credit: ITV News

Milly has several health conditions and recently tore a muscle in her leg which required urgent physiotherapy. 

But getting to the physio sessions was where problems came up - the local bus service was cancelled, a taxi was too expensive, and when she asked her GP for advice she was told that she wasn’t eligible for help. 

Carol has been living with chronic pain for two years. After trying various options and nothing working, she found out it would be a two-year wait to see an NHS neurologist. 

This has forced her to go private - something she says she’s only able to do because she doesn’t have children. 

She said: "I told my sister that I’m having to spend all my nieces' and nephews' inheritance; there won’t be anything left for them. I have spent more than I could tell you."

All of these personal stories have come from a survey carried out by Healthwatch Gloucestershire. The main findings were: 

  • People are choosing between essentials such as food, heating, medication, and electricity 

  • There's poverty in all parts of Gloucestershire 

  • Working people are struggling to make ends meet

  • There's a lack of affordable transport which is a barrier to people 

  • Pensioners are less concerned than younger people 

NHS Gloucestershire Integrated Care Board associate director, Beck Parish, said: "NHS Gloucestershire Integrated Care Board (GICB) values the opportunity to gain feedback collected by Healthwatch Gloucestershire from people and communities who live and work in Gloucestershire and who access local health and care services."

She then went on to say how it would be working with the voluntary community and social enterprise sector to reduce health inequalities, improve patient transport, access to medications, and dental treatment. 

Gloucestershire County Council’s executive director Colin Chick said: "Thank you for sharing your report on the cost of living.

"There are some interesting findings which we will note and consider as we deliver and continue to develop our services for residents in Gloucestershire."

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