Upward arrow top down view people

Health services vital in rebuilding local economies after Covid-19

It’s impossible to switch on the news without hearing about how Covid-19 has affected the economy but what may be less well known is the part that the NHS could play in the UK’s economic and social recovery.

Last week, government spending watchdog, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), illustrated the severity of the problem saying its “optimistic scenario” is that unemployment peaks at 9.7 per cent this year and returns to pre-crisis levels in 2022.

In the OBR’s least optimistic scenario, it peaks at 13.2%, in 2021 - with four million people out of work. It is still at 6.3% by the end of this scenario in 2024, well above pre-crisis levels.

Health services have a vital role to play in the recovery and rebuilding of our local economies and communities – driving up prosperity, population health and wellbeing – in the wake of Covid-19. 

This will involve transforming public service planning and delivery at a time of unprecedented economic and social disruption – pushing the NHS to understand its impact and value as local anchor organisations, or major employers in local areas, well beyond traditional sectoral boundaries. It will also mean using the system approach now emerging to drive up population health and wellbeing. 

The health service’s crucial role in the economic and social recovery is explored within an NHS Confederation NHS Reset report published today.

The report, Health as the new Wealth: The NHS’ role in economic and social recovery, highlights the strength of the links between health and growth, outlines a five-point plan for every system to build on to maximise their local impact and influence, and showcases innovative practice which is supporting lasting local change.

The five-point plan identifies steps the NHS can take in every local economy. It recommends:

  • Developing an anchor network across all health and care bodies within the system footprint,
  • Making an explicit commitment to fill existing health and care vacancies with local people,
  • Embedding health and care within national and local regeneration planning,
  • Proposing a Civic Restoration Strategy, and,
  • Convening industry leaders to source potential new local supply chains

The report also makes clear that there is a role for both national government and our health and care systems to support and embed this work. The recommendations draw heavily on work undertaken in the last few months to bring this five-point plan to life. In particular, this includes the NHS Confederation’s joint report with Yorkshire Academic Health Science Network and Yorkshire Universities which called for more health-related investment in geographic areas to further the government’s levelling-up agenda and a report with the Independent Commission on the College of the Future calling on Government for funding to embed the NHS into colleges to encourage domestic recruitment.

It is important that the actions suggested in the five-point plan do not unnecessarily add further demands, complexity and strain on a health service already stretched to breaking point. We strongly believe they are in fact the beginning of a new way of approaching public service delivery which talks about investment rather than efficiency savings, collaboration rather than institutional barriers and place-based rather than sector driven.

The impact of Covid-19 will reverberate throughout communities on a previously unimaginable scale, requiring sustained action from national and local leaders across every sector. While health and care services have achieved so much in such a short space of time, the bigger wins may be about to follow – driving up prosperity, population health and wellbeing.

NHE Nov/Dec 2023

NHE Nov/Dec 2023

AI is key in helping dementia patients live independently for longer.

The Nov/Dec 2023 edition of NHE brings you expert comment and analysis on a range of key health sector topics, from digital transformation to navigating post-pandemic challenges.


View all videos
National Health Executive Presents

National Health Executive Presents

NHE365 Virtual Events

NHE has created a full calendar of events to address the most important issues that influence the delivery of healthcare services. Over 365 days you'll have the opportunity to hear from a range of highly motivating, informative and inspirational speakers. These speakers will equip you with the knowledge and unique insight to enable you to overcome the challenges that you face.

National Health Executive Podcast

Ep 39.
What makes a good NHS manager? with Anthony Painter, Director of Policy at Chartered Management Institute (CMI)

In episode 39 of the National Health Executive podcast, we were joined by Anthony Painter, who is the director of policy at the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), to discuss all things management within the UK health sector and NHS.

During the podcast, Anthony shared some of the recent research CMI conducted in partnership with the Social Market Foundation, which centred around the state of management and leadership within the NHS.

More articles...

View all