BMA lobbying

Health in all policies: health, austerity and welfare reform

This briefing aims to support doctors’ advocacy role in protecting health during times of austerity, setting out the potential harms to health of austerity and the action needed to prevent them occurring.

Location: UK
Audience: Public health doctors
Updated: Tuesday 14 December 2021
Topics: Population health
Public Health Article Illustration

What you will get from this briefing

  • Recommendations to mitigate the adverse impacts of austerity and associated welfare reform, and protect and promote health.
  • Practical ways doctors can advocate for action in their healthcare setting and community.
  • Practical ways for doctors to influence local and national policy.


Key findings

  • In Scotland, the NHS budget has been cut by 1% in real terms between 2009/10 and 2015/16, but local government budget cuts were less severe than in England.
  • In Wales, funding for the NHS fell by an average of 2.5% a year in real terms between 2010/11
    and 2012/13.
  • Cuts to the public health grant in England will inevitably lead to service reduction and will, in the
    longer term, result in greater costs for both the NHS and the taxpayer.
  • A 2014 UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund) report highlighted a strong and
    multifaceted relationship between the impact of the recent period of recession on national
    economies and a decline in children’s well-being since 2008.
  • Economic and social policy strongly impacts on physical and mental health, with those policies that affect income and employment being particularly


  • Impact on health and wellbeing
  • The groups most disadvantaged by welfare reform
  • The effect of budget cuts on local services
  • Increasing levels of food insecurity
  • The association between employment and health
  • Austerity, mental health and suicide
  • A focus on mental health services
  • Homelessness
  • National action to reduce social and economic inequalities
  • A focus on child health
  • Investing to protect and promote health
  • Assessing the impact of all policies on health
  • Supporting HIA in Wales
  • Doctors as advocates
  • Action in the healthcare setting
  • Social prescribing
  • Action in the local community
  • Influencing national and international policy