Tackling health inequalities

How to build practical action on health inequalities into recovery plans

1 October 2020

4 minute read

Covid-19 has exacerbated existing health inequalities particularly for Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities and reduced the ability of local resources to tackle them due to the demands of the pandemic response. Coordinated and concerted action across partners is critical to a healthy and inclusive recovery. Experts from the health Foundation and NHS Confederation joined members of the network to discuss how to build practical action on health inequalities into recovery plans with a focus on partnership working and use of data.

Key Learnings:

Deliver recovery through partnership working

  • Develop new collaborative governance models. Many places have developed joint governance models from a period of intense collaboration. Potential models include cross-sector working groups focused on tackling health inequalities, public service boards developing joint responses to cross-cutting issues, and independent commission to respond to long-term, systemic inequalities. Ensure that there is a clear role for health.
  • Continue to build and strengthen relationships across the public sector and the voluntary and community sector. Use the creation of new, responsive models of collaboration to develop longer term ways of working to tackle health inequalities through the continuing response to Covid-19 and recovery.
  • Establish shared roles and teams across the NHS and and local government helping to break down organisational siloes and provide ‘critical friend’ perspectives across health and economic development. This approach has also facilitated more effective sharing and use of data across local agencies.
  • Coordinate with the voluntary and community sector to explore how recovery interventions can be designed and delivered with communities. Communities are being empowered and consulted in supporting wellbeing through recovery.
  • Work with hyper-local health partners. Many areas have taken action to strengthen the role of GP surgeries as community-based anchors through co-located welfare services. Places could explore the legacy of community hubs and the joint health and local authority role in supporting these.

Maximise local impact of health anchors

  • Formalise health anchor roles. Create an agreed, shared definition of an anchor institution between local partners. Consider developing an anchor network incorporating health and care bodies within the local footprint and agreeing an ‘anchor charter’ with commitments around procurement, good work and climate action.
  • Advance the anchor role of health partners by maximising the wider impact of NHS capital investments on the local economy, developing social value in local NHS supply chains and working locally to respond to emerging needs such as PPE, creating job matching from struggling sectors into local health, and progressing existing local and national programmes, such as the One Public Estate.

Review approaches to evidence, measurement and monitoring

  • Incorporate wider measures of economic, environmental and social outcomes. Some places are drawing on the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Doughnut Economics tool.
  • Monitor progress towards achieving longer-term objectives by adopting short-term success measures, operational data and qualitative insights. Leeds are proposing to adopt the Social Progress Index, as well as measuring success through lived experience.
  • Develop joint/shared metrics through new collaborations between health and local authorities. Several members reported a need for greater capacity to analyse and interpret data that can be used to inform local agencies, businesses and communities.


Emma Spencelayh, Senior Policy Fellow at the Health Foundation, highlighted findings from using economic development to improve health and reduce health inequalities and Economies for Healthier Lives, a new funding programme to strengthen relationships between economic development and health.

Michael Wood, Head of Health Economic Partnerships at the NHS Confederation, presented the NHS Confederation’s report, Health as the new wealth: the NHS’s role in economic and social recovery, outlining a five-point plan for the NHS to take in local economies.