13 July 2023

At a glance:

New research funded by the National Institute for Health and Social Care Research (NIHR) has found that a Basic Income scheme could potentially save the NHS tens of billions of pounds.

‘Treating causes not symptoms: Basic Income as a public health measure’ uses a range of economic and health modelling, public opinion surveys and community consultation to present cutting-edge evidence on the impact of Basic Income schemes.

Economic impact: 

  • Even a more ‘modest’ basic income scheme (£75 a week, £3,900 a year) would reduce child poverty to the lowest level since comparable records began in 1961 and achieve more at significantly less cost than the anti-poverty interventions of the New Labour governments. 
  • Child and pensioner poverty down by at least 60% each
  • Working age poverty down by between 29% and 75% depending on the scheme
  • Inequality down 55% to the lowest in the world under the most ambitious scheme

Public health impact: 

  • Between 125,000 and 1 million cases of depressive disorders could be prevented or postponed.
  • Between 120,000 and 1.04 million cases of clinically significant physical health symptoms could be prevented or postponed.
  • Between 130,000 and 655,000 quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) could be gained, valued at between £3.9 billion and £19.7 billion.
  • Based on depressive disorders alone, NHS and personal social services cost savings in 2023 of between £125 million and £1.03 billion assuming 50% of cases diagnosed and treated.



Elliott Johnson, Howard Reed, Daniel Nettle, Graham Stark, Joe Chrisp, Neil Howard, Grace Gregory, Cleo Goodman, Matthew Smith, Jonathan Coates, Ian Robson, Fiorella Parra-Mujica, Kate E. Pickett and Matthew Johnson


We would like to thank the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) for kindly funding the project underpinning this report: ‘Understanding the prospective public health impact and social feasibility of Universal Basic Income schemes in the UK’.

We would also like to thank Northumbria University, University of York, Institut Jean Nicod, University of Bath, Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam and Durham University, as well as our national organisational partners, Compass, Basic Income Conversation and Autonomy.

Our local organisational partners, of which there are many, have provided an enormous amount of support to the project, including with regard to organising key research activities. In particular, we would like to thank Big Local Central Jarrow and Grange Big Local. Big Local Central Jarrow played a key part in the Citizen Engagement Workshops and both supported public and policymaker engagement, including as part of the separate, but related, Big Local Basic Income micro-pilot proposals.

This project was also supported by the UK Prevention Research Partnership (UKPRP) collaboration, ActEarly.

Matthew Johnson, Professor of Public Policy at Northumbria University, and the project lead, said:

“The findings of this report are clear: there is no obvious alternative to Basic Income that has the same multipurpose function and impact across society.

“These first indications of public health impact are debate shifting, while evidence on British public opinion present clear pathways to funding through wealth, carbon and corporation tax increases.

“This should encourage administrations, such as in Wales and Greater Manchester, which have expressed support for policies like this.”


Kate Pickett, Professor of Epidemiology, University of York, and the author of The Spirit Level, said:

“Given decades of measurable failure, it should be clear that people in local communities affected by poverty, insecurity and lack of opportunity are the authoritative voice on what they need to enhance their health and wellbeing.

“We need to listen to their expressed needs and lived experience and create policies that support them to flourish.”


Dr Jonathan Coates, GP in Newcastle upon Tyne and NIHR In-Practice Fellow, Durham University, said:

“As a GP, I increasingly find that my patients are in financially precarious positions, regardless of whether they are in work or on benefits, and this has a clear impact on their physical and mental health.

“Basic Income represents an opportunity to follow in the footsteps of previous bold interventions to address the causes, not the symptoms, of illness.”