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How is the cost of living crisis affecting the Stroke community?

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The vast majority of the UK population is being affected by the cost of living crisis, which is seeing the prices of household bills among other everyday necessities like food soar.

But, what about those most vulnerable? 

Stroke survivors have additional costs on top these everyday necessities, as they need essential services like specialist equipment, care and therapies.

Stroke charity CEO on cost of living crisis

Austin Willett, CEO of Different Strokes highlights these issues and says more must be done: “The cost-of-living crisis is anxiety-inducing for everyone but will have a seismic impact on stroke survivors and the disabled community as a whole. 

“People living with disabilities and their families have to pay for essential services that other people don’t, such as equipment, therapies, heating, and insurance. 

“They are already more likely to have a lower standard of living than non-disabled people earning the same, and this additional expense can be incredibly difficult to manage as it is.

More must be done to ease the financial pressure on the most vulnerable in our society. Action must be taken quickly, as winter is on the way and there is a genuine, severe risk to people’s wellbeing. 

“Life after stroke is already extremely challenging, without the added stress of worrying if you’ll be able to continue to put food on the table, run vital equipment, or heat your home.”

Stroke survivor on cost of living crisis

Nick Clarke is a stroke survivor himself. He started his charity StrokeInformation in order to help other survivors get back to normal life.

On the cost of living crisis, Nick says: “I would strongly suggest that anyone making a claim for PIP/UC that they engage with someone who knows what they are doing, like us here at StrokeInformation.

“I do not wish to tempt fate, but we have not lost an appeal yet. People do not need to be scared or frightened, and I would like to offer our free support to anyone who needs it. 

“I don’t know how to fix the cost of living crisis, but I do think if we can advise people that they are not on their own, we will accomplish great things.”

How is it effecting those who care for stroke survivors?

Carers of stroke survivors and stoke patients are also being adversely impacted by the crisis.

A recent UNISON survey found that low-paid public sector employees including hospital porters and care staff are unable to cover basic living costs, with 95 per cent of the survey finding it increasingly difficult to pay their household bills.

The survey also found that these workers, who are earning £20,000 or less, are skipping meals, avoiding paid healthcare like the dentist and taking on second jobs to be able to cope with the cost of living crisis.

The Royal College of Nursing general secretary and chief executive, Pat Cullen, says: “Inflation now at a 40-year high, combined with decade long stagnant wage growth, will force many nursing staff to question if they can afford to stay in the profession.

“Thousands have already left nursing this year, leaving tens of thousands of vacancies and patient care at risk.”

Cullen highlights that new Prime Minister Liz Truss must get to grips with the cost of living crisis and stop it from spiralling further: “The new Prime Minister must grip the issues in the economy and the nursing workforce, or this crisis will grow even further.”

The chief executive has threatened strike action, with Royal College of Nursing members set to vote on whether to strike: “Nursing staff have had enough, and next month we will ballot our members on strike action. Ministers cannot ignore this any longer.”

Cullen says that nurses she has spoken to are “terrified” by the rising costs and fear how they will stay warm this winter.

She also fears that some nurses will feel like they will need to leave the occupation over pay fears: “They have already endured a decade of pay stagnation and the spiralling living costs have forced some into poverty.

“Some will be left wondering if they can afford to even stay in nursing – thousands have left in the last year alone.”

Dr Terry Quinn, stroke physician and member of the British and Irish Association of Stroke Physicians worries that the NHS could lose some of it’s most senior staff: “Because some of the recent changes on the laws around pensions mean that the most senior doctors in the NHS are effectively working for nothing.

“Or they are losing money, because of the hours of work and changes in tax dealings and pensions.”

“Because of this some of the most senior people, the people who are real leaders within the NHS are taking early retirement, because as much as they love their job, they’re not going to work and lose money for it.”

Quinn also fears for how the cost of living crisis will affect stroke survivors. He says: “If you can’t afford to heat your house and not afford to eat, you’re not going to recover from a stroke.

“I feel sometimes people feel they need to shy away from being political, if you’re not going to talk about these things, you’re not a good doctor.

“The NHS can patch people up, but if they’re going back to that situation that’s going to cause or exacerbate their illness, what actually are we doing?”

The stroke physician highlights the importance of stroke charities and the role they play in stroke care: “Charities are an important thing to think about, because the charity sector plays a huge role in stroke care.

“ The Stroke Association was very worried with COVID and that because of it, donations would dry up, and that didn’t happen, but I think it is going to happen now.

“Not because people don’t see the importance of the charity, but because they’re not going to have that spare money to go to charity.”

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