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Unequal Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

Exploring how communities and groups were affected by the unequal impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and key future lessons that must be learned.

  • COVID-19
  • Health inequalities
  • Lived experience

Initially portrayed as a great leveller, it quickly became clear that the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic were being felt extremely unequally by the public. A quotation from an essay by Damian Barr in the Wall Street Journal in May 2020, came to be adopted to encapsulate the reality of the pandemic:

We are all in the same storm, but not in the same boat.

To those already working on health issues across the UK, these inequalities did not come as a surprise. The unequal impact of the pandemic was the result of a failure to compensate for historic inequity within the health system and society at large. Without effective mitigation in place, the pandemic exposed and exacerbated existing inequalities making them harder to ignore.

Unique insights

In April 2023, we held a workshop to gather unique insights from individuals with lived experience and National Voices’ members on the unequal impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. We explored how communities and groups were affected by both the virus itself and the measures brought in to control it. Our report shares what we heard.

This engagement programme enabled enormous insight to be gathered and digested, which resulted in us identifying future actions to support those who were most impacted by the pandemic.  With the Covid-19 Inquiry underway, we have met with the Inquiry team to support them in their work to engage meaningfully with people and communities most impacted by the pandemic, and to recommend our report to them.


We would like to thank all of our members who contributed to this work, but in particular those who lead the discussions at our workshop in April 2023:

  • Jabeer Butt, Chief Executive of the Race Equality Foundation
  • Abigail Gorman, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at SignHealth
  • Tracey Loftis, Head of Policy, Public Affairs and Engagement at Versus Arthritis
  • Dr Jo Brown, Research Manager at Groundswell.

We would also like to thank The Disrupt Foundation for their support of this work.