New briefing to help trusts tackle health inequalities

A new joint briefing by NHS Providers and the Provider Public Health Network sets out a plan of action for trusts to combat growing health inequalities in the next stage of the pandemic.

The document presents a set of principles to help trusts and partner organisations understand and tackle health inequalities, describing the damaging impact of the pandemic, particularly among people from disadvantaged populations, with contributory factors including occupational exposure, overcrowded housing and insecure employment.

People from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities have been found to have a significantly higher risk of death from coronavirus than those of white ethnicity, and the virus has disproportionately affected groups including men working in occupations such as taxi drivers, bus drivers, chefs and retail assistants, who were found in 2020 to have the highest rate of coronavirus-related morbidity.

This briefing for healthcare providers seeks to help leaders build upon current efforts to tackle, and demonstrates the significant and lasting contribution that providers can make to the health of their local population, for example through their role as a local employer. A useful starting point for trusts could be to draw on existing organisational health information and intelligence, or local system data such as the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment, to help inform where their services will have the greatest impact for the local population.

It follows a practical, case study led approach, which sets out the principles to guide trusts’ responses, the priority actions that have been shown to work, and the steps to help monitor the impact of work in this area. It also emphasises the pivotal role of providers at neighbourhood, place and system level.

Saffron Cordery, NHS Providers deputy chief executive, said: "During the first wave of the pandemic we saw how people from areas with higher levels of socio-economic deprivation and ethnic minority communities were disproportionately impacted by Covid-19. Our health and care system must continue to do all that it can to dispel disparities in health outcomes between all communities.

"We understand that health inequalities didn’t begin with Covid-19 and are deeply entrenched in our society. These examples show how progress can be made, but there is a lot of work to be done. The importance of tackling health inequalities has been thrown into sharp relief by the tragedy of the pandemic. We have here the foundations of a proven, evidence-based way forward."