Orkney's MSP, Liam McArthur, has today raised concerns with the Health Secretary about the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on people's physical health and mental wellbeing.
Speaking in the Scottish Parliament earlier, Mr McArthur highlighted the fears of a local GP in Orkney who has warned rising heating costs will have "significant implications for the health of patients" and risk "increased NHS workloads".
The NHS Confederation warned last month that the UK is facing a "humanitarian crisis" due to the risk posed by cold homes and nutritious food becoming unaffordable. Recent research commissioned by the Liberal Democrats estimates that nearly 1 in 4 households are planning to keep their heating turned off this winter.
Orkney's MSP acknowledged the urgent need for the new Prime Minister, Liz Truss, to take bold steps to address the crisis, but asked the Health Secretary, Humza Yousaf, what additional support will be provided to NHS Orkney and other health boards to help deal with the knock-on impacts to workloads. In response, Mr Yousaf echoed the call for urgent action by the Prime Minister and acknowledged the pressures being borne by health and care services across Scotland.
Commenting afterwards, Mr McArthur said:
"Whilst the rise in energy costs is creating a palpable sense of fear amongst households and businesses across the country, in places like Orkney, where bills are already well ahead of the national average, the impact is being felt even harder.
"As well as the impact on household finances, however, the rise in bills risks affecting people’s health and wellbeing. GPs in Orkney are right to warn of the impact of financial hardship on mental health combined with the effect on physical health of living in cold, damp homes. In turn, this places enormous pressure on NHS services that are already creaking.
"The Health Secretary is right to describe this as a public health crisis. It is a crisis that demands urgent action by both UK and Scottish Governments, including an urgent decision from the new Prime Minister to back Liberal Democrat plans to scrap the energy price rise due next month. This is now an emergency requiring an emergency response."