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Half a billion working days lost to sickness since last election – Labour

The party said its analysis of official figures shows the economic cost of the Conservatives’ ‘failure’ to support people with ill health.

An empty computer chair by a desk

More than half a billion working days have been lost to sickness since the last general election, Labour has claimed.

The party said its analysis of official figures shows the economic cost of the Conservatives’ “failure” to support people with ill health.

The number of working days lost to sickness hit 185.6 million in 2022 – the highest since records began in 1995, according to Office for National Statistics (ONS) data.

GP surgery stock
Patient’s records are stored at the Temple Fortune Health Centre GP Practice near Golders Green, London.

Shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Ashworth accused the Government of “breaking all the wrong records” – “record NHS waiting lists, record numbers of working days lost to sickness and record levels of sickness-related inactivity”.

He said: “Their failure to get Britain working is holding back our economy and squandering the potential of millions of people who want to work but aren’t getting the right support.”

A Government spokesman said it was leaving “no stone unturned”, with inactivity falling since the middle of last year by nearly 300,000, but told employers they “also need to play their part”.

“Supporting people who are not working for health reasons is a key priority for this Government, with £3.5 billion of additional investment at the last Budget to get more people into work, including £2 billion targeted at those who are sick and disabled,” a spokesman said.

“Employers also need to play their part and we are consulting on ways to increase coverage of occupational health provision, so people can access support in the workplace before they fall out of work.”

Both the NHS and the labour market have become increasingly key political battlegrounds for the two main parties in recent months.

Figures released earlier this year showed record numbers of people waiting to start routine hospital treatment.

And ONS data released last week revealed net migration soared to a record 606,000 in 2022, with Labour blaming the rise on domestic labour shortages creating a need for overseas workers.

The Government announced last week that GPs will be required to offer patients a wider range of healthcare providers for treatment as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak seeks to fulfil his promise to cut waiting times.

Meanwhile, in a major speech in Essex, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer unveiled a package of pledges aimed at improving the nation’s health.

They include targets for 85% of cancer patients to start treatment within 62 days of an urgent referral and for 95% of A&E cases to be seen within four hours, which has not been achieved nationally since 2015.

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