NHS board meeting on health inequalities

New guide launched for NHS trust leaders to tackle health inequalities

NHS trusts should prioritise appointing a board-level executive lead for health inequalities, according to new guidance from NHS Providers which has been specifically designed for healthcare leaders.

The appointment of a health inequalities lead has been a requirement from NHS England since 2021, which is why NHS trusts should make that their first step to tackle inequalities.

Other main objectives include to:

  • Develop trust-wide plans and strategies to tackle health inequalities
  • Build public health capability
  • Use data to better understand the root causes of local health inequalities

As well as these goals, NHS Providers has outlined a series of targets for NHS trust chairs, non-executive directors, and chief executives.

These include to ensure the board receives annual health inequality training, set targets to enhance data reporting by ethnicity, deprivation and protected characteristics, and for board members to routinely feedback this information to the chief executive.

“…tackling health inequalities is both a moral imperative and a strategic necessity…”

NHS trusts should complete the health inequalities self-assessment tool, which has been designed to be used in conjunction with NHS Providers’ new guide.

The tool will ask questions on public health capacity, data, leadership, and system partnerships before giving a maturity rating with ‘not started’ as the worst and ‘thriving’ as the best. A bespoke set of objectives will given to NHS trust leaders to act on, based on the results.

The guide also includes a vision of what effective NHS board action looks like for health inequalities.

"The launch of our guide underlines the critical role NHS board members play in this battle,” explained NHS Providers’ deputy chief executive, Saffron Cordery. “As healthcare leaders, they hold the key to reshaping policies and services to address some of the root causes of disparities.”

Cordery added that now is the time for action and failing to do so will only exacerbate pressures on already overstretched services.

She said: "In the face of mounting pressures on the healthcare sector, tackling health inequalities is both a moral imperative and a strategic necessity for the NHS.”

Image credit: iStock

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