NHS England announces £2.7m for ICS health equality schemes

NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE/I) has revealed that around £2.7 million in funding has been allocated to help improve health equality across England.

According to NHSE/I, it has funded a £65k project in 41 Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) to help target groups that are at risk of poor health.

As part of a “wide-ranging” initiative across the nation, called the Health Equalities Partnership (HEP) Programme, ICSs are selecting their own areas of local priority, such as focusing on homelessness and deprivation, specific ethnic minority groups or people that are digitally excluded. Funding can be used on new or existing projects.

Examples of schemes currently in development, include:

  • South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw – a scheme focused on improving the uptake of social prescribing in Rotherham’s ethnic minority communities. GP referral data will be used to start focus groups, workshops, and cultural competency training for the workforce.
  • Derbyshire – plans are underway for a system care project that allows trained staff to talk to patients on elective waiting lists. It’s hoped these conversations will reduce the strain on clinicians, help target those who are at greater risk on waiting lists and provide them with referrals to social prescribing, community and voluntary support, as well as ensuring wider health and equality impacts are considered.
  • Surrey Heartlands – the group has already launched Tech to Comment Connect, which pairs trained volunteers – known as ‘tech angels’- with local residents that are digitally excluded. The scheme will help people in areas where digital exclusion is high to access the latest virtual opportunities, as well as apps and online appointment booking, shopping and social groups.
  • Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire – a project around vaccinating at risk community groups for flu. Rough sleepers, Romany gypsies, boaters and travellers, as well as people with learning difficulties, will be among those helped to access the flu vaccine. Population Health Management tools will also be used to focus on those with respiratory conditions, while health and care teams will be trained and equipped to help increase vaccination awareness.

The HEP Programme will allow health professionals to identify which groups need support in their own communities, in a move in line with comments made by Sir Simon Stevens, Head of NHS England and NHS Improvement, on the need to improve the use of population health management techniques.

Examples of inequalities in health cited by NHSE/I in its announcement include that black women are “four times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth”, that there is a healthy life expectancy gap of around 19.6 years between the “most and least deprived communities”, and that people with learning disabilities currently have a lower life expectancy – a gap of around 15 years – than the average population.

Following the roll-out of ICSs this year, a move which is designed to improve population health and deliver more place-based leadership, NHSE/I said that the HEP programme “supports systems to improve patient care from the ground up,” by “strengthening new and existing partnerships”, “developing skills and knowledge” and “providing practical support”.

For more information, visit the NHS England website.