HC Deb 09 June 1981 vol 6 cc252-3
5. Mr. Campbell-Savours

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether any assessment has been made of the cost to the National Health Service of the effects of unemployment.

The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Sir George Young)

No, Sir. Such an assessment would depend on being able to determine whether and in what ways unemployment alone affects health, what effects this has on demand for NHS services and the cost of that demand. As I said in my reply to the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Dr. Thomas) on 27 April —[Vol. 3, c. 346]—we are already sponsoring some work to assess the relationship between unemployment and health and the effects on health services, and are considering what further work is required.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Has the Minister seen the work of Professor Harvey Brenner, a research scientist in the United States, who has shown that there is a clear link between mortality, unemployment and increased expenditure on health services? Will the Minister conduct an investigation in one of our regions that is suffering from particularly high unemployment —for example, the Northern region —to see whether there is a link to be established? If he does that, will he publish his findings so that we may all read them with great interest?

Sir George Young

I am familiar with the work of Professor Brenner. The Department is trying to replicate such work here. We are sponsoring research at Queen Mary college seeking to replicate Professor Brenner's work into the correlation between unemployment and mortality. We hope that the results will be available next year and that they will be published.

Mr. Foster

Is it not well known that there is an increased incidence of illness among the unemployed? Are not the unemployment black spots also the health black spots? Will the Minister make great efforts to give top priority to diverting resources to areas which are both unemployment and health black spots, such as the North-East?

Sir George Young

It is clear that unemployment can cause stress. It is reasonable to assume that there is some association between unemployment and health. A specific study by Dr. Fagin of 22 families showed that in some cases health worsened as a result of unemployment, but that in a few cases it improved; that shows the difficulty of drawing conclusions.

On the question of the funding of the NHS, those regions that are under-funded will catch up by implementation of the RAWP procedure.

Mr. Woodall

How does the Minister relate his reply to the recent statement by the Institute for Cancer Research that it is to mace 50 members of its staff redundant due of a shortfall in cash, which has been caused because no provision has been made to take account of the effect of inflation on the money that it receives from donations and covenants? Would it not be better if the Secretary of State tried to help that institute to keep the 50 workers in employment?

Sir George Young

I am not sure that the hon. Gentleman's point arises directly out of the main question. I think that he is referring to an early-day motion which is addressed to the Treasury, not my Department.