NHS spending power could reduce inequality

Think tank urges health service to use its ‘considerable resources’ to help boost opportunities in deprived areas

Friday 16th August 2019

The NHS’s economic clout should be used to regenerate and boost opportunities in deprived areas, according to a think tank.

Researchers at the Health Foundation say the health service could use its ‘unique’ position as the largest UK employer and major purchaser of good and services to make a ‘far greater contribution’ to reducing poverty and health inequalities.

Hospitals and NHS offices are major employers rooted in local communities, researchers say, and are particularly important in regional economies.

In Scotland 160,000 people are employed by the NHS.

Apprenticeships are identified as a key way of targeting groups at risk of unemployment.

The study’s authors point to hospitals in Leeds that hosted recruitment campaigns, employability sessions and language classes in deprived areas with high levels of recent immigrants, attracting thirty new hires from the area.

They also call for NHS bodies to spend more locally, so public money stays in the local economy and boosts small businesses.

Dominique Allwood, assistant director of improvement at the Health Foundation and one of the report’s authors, said: “Our health is shaped by the conditions in which we live, learn, work and age.

“Access to good medical care is also crucial but it ultimately plays a lesser role in our overall health than these wider societal factors.”

“With growing economic inequality in the UK, we’re also seeing widening health inequality, with people in deprived areas more likely to experience ill health.

“There is therefore a clear need for the NHS to make a broader contribution to people’s lives, leveraging its considerable resources to improve the economic and social conditions that impact so fundamentally on our health.”