Drive to tackle health inequalities 'core business' for NHS, say trust leaders

07 April 2022

Driving change to tackle unequal healthcare experiences and outcomes is high on the day-to-day business plan for the NHS, a survey of trust leaders shows - with trusts now committed to taking action on health inequalities as part of their 'core business'.

Amid a growing cost of living crisis and concerns about the impact it could have on worsening health inequalities, and the forthcoming health disparities White Paper, trust leaders are calling for an "honest debate" about the wider picture and the need for cross-government action.

A new report and survey, United against health inequalities: a commitment to lasting change, by NHS Providers, the membership organisation representing acute, community, mental health and ambulance trusts found:

Despite a strong commitment to tackling health inequalities, trust leaders described several barriers to progress with nearly two in three (65%) saying that wider pressures on the system and operational challenges hinder their ability to progress work on reducing health inequalities. Nearly half of trust leaders expressed concerns about the lack of access to data about health inequalities within trusts (49%) and across the health system (48%). 

Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said:

"The NHS is united in tackling health inequalities and committed to lasting change. Our commitment to addressing unfair, avoidable differences in people's access to, experiences of and outcomes from health services is strong and getting stronger.

"Trusts are at different starting points but are clear that this is a priority in a complex and challenging environment.

"The COVID-19 pandemic heightened already existing health inequalities across England and galvanised action to tackle the inequalities faced by marginalised and vulnerable communities. Now we can build on lessons learned from the pandemic, but the scale of the challenge is clear.

"Trusts have a vital role to play in working together effectively with partners across the health system to improve access and to narrow gaps in health equality, and as anchor institutions are committed to playing their part in the wider determinants of health.

"To cement that long-term commitment as part of their day-to-day business, trusts need consistency and clarity on a national scale and a supportive infrastructure and regulatory environment which rewards progress on health inequalities as much as it does good operational and financial performance."

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