Urgent and coordinated action is needed across all levels of government in the UK to tackle health inequalities in Scotland, a survey by Holyrood has found.

The Scottish Parliament’s Health, Welfare and Sport Committee is also calling for tackling poverty to become a major public health priority in order to tackle the problem.

Evidence heard by the committee showed that the Covid-19 pandemic and increases in the cost of living have further exacerbated health inequalities across the country.

A new report released on Wednesday says measures such as civil service reform and strategic action are “essential”.



The evidence is clear that health inequalities in Scotland continue to grow

Gillian Martin, committee leader

Recommendations include actions on education, employment and housing to improve health outcomes and better address inequalities.

When writing the report, the majority of the committee agreed with a recommendation from the Glasgow Center of Population Health that, within budgetary constraints, the UK government should ensure that benefits and tax credits are aligned on inflation.

The committee also called on Westminster to reinstate the Universal Credit boost that was introduced during the coronavirus pandemic.

Evidence submitted to the survey revealed that unpaid care has a disproportionate impact on health outcomes, with informal carers subsequently facing significant health inequalities.

The Scottish Government and Public Health Scotland have been asked to provide more targeted support for carers to mitigate this.

Committee facilitator Gillian Martin said: “The evidence is clear that health inequalities in Scotland continue to grow, while the pandemic and the current cost of living crisis will only further exacerbate these inequalities.

“A number of witnesses contributing to the inquiry argued that over the past decade UK government austerity policies have also had a negative impact on health inequalities in Scotland.

“We are particularly concerned that the rising cost of living will have a greater negative impact on groups that already experience health inequalities, including those living in poverty and those with disabilities.

“To date, government action to address health inequalities has not been sufficient in the face of decades of major impacts on household incomes. We call for urgent action at all levels of government to reduce these glaring inequalities that have real life and death consequences.

Ms Martin added: “There is currently no comprehensive national strategy to tackle health inequalities in Scotland.

“Meanwhile, the evidence submitted to our survey revealed multiple instances where the design and delivery of public services can exacerbate rather than reduce inequalities. We must continue with civil service reform to ensure that this does not happen again.

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