The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a stark light on inequalities in health and healthcare. The twin challenges of recovering NHS services inclusively, and realising the NHS Long Term Plan ambitions, requires focus and drive at every level in the NHS.
Health inequalities are the differences in the status of people’s health. It can be used to describe the differences:
• in life expectancy and prevalence of health conditions
• access to care
• quality of care and patient experience
• behavioural risks to health
• wider determinants of health
There is a clear link between health inequalities and the levels of deprivation of the area where people live i.e. people from more deprived areas will on average have lower life expectancy than those living in areas with less deprivation. In addition, they will experience more of their lives in poor health as compared to someone from an area with less deprivation.
The COVID19 pandemic has also brought into sharp relief significant disparities with regards to mortality rates by ethnicity. People of Bangladeshi ethnicity had around twice the risk of death than people of White British ethnicity. People of Chinese, Indian Pakistani, Other Asian, Black Caribbean, and Other Black ethnicity had between 10 and 50% higher risk of death when compared to White British.
The NHS has an important role in tackling health inequalities as:
• Commissioner and Service Provider
• Partner in the Integrated Care System (ICS) tasked with reducing inequalities.