Analysing linked welfare and health data
Vittal Katikireddi was awarded a five-year NHS Research Scotland Senior Clinical Fellowship, commencing in 2016. This fellowship is using data linkage to bring together anonymised information that is routinely collected for administrative purposes by the NHS and the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP). This will allow a better understanding of how people's employment status (for example if they are employed, unemployed, or are out of work due to ill-health) and receipt of welfare benefits affect their health.
There are three phases to the fellowship. In the first phase, the Work and Pensions Longitudinal Study (WPLS), which has information on all types of benefits administered by the DWP (e.g. job seekers allowance) is being linked to health information (e.g. dates and causes of death, reasons for hospital attendance) for residents of Scotland. The health needs of people claiming different types of benefits and how employment changes over time following the onset of a long-term health condition is being assessed. In the second phase, the pathways between welfare benefits, employment and health will be investigated - for example, by studying the effects of 'zero hours' contracts on health. The third phase evaluates the health impacts of specific recent UK welfare reforms (such as the replacement of incapacity benefit with employment and support allowance), considering them as specific natural experiments.