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The pandemic fundamentally changed many people’s experiences of accessing care, and worsened existing inequalities. National Voices is committed to embedding the lessons learnt from the pandemic across our work, especially in relation to health inequalities.

Our Stance

We know those who died from COVID-19 were much more likely to have faced social inequalities. They often experienced home or work conditions that meant people were unable to work from home, isolate when they had Covid or indeed shield as advised by the Government if they were deemed extremely vulnerable to Covid.  

While we saw for a time these inequalities finally bought to the fore in national conversation, this has not resulted in equivalent progress in closing the gap.  

The majority of our work embeds the lessons we learnt from Covid-19, especially on tackling health inequalities. These lessons are wide ranging from the need to engage with communities in ways that work for them in order to gain their trust in the health system; to ensuring the rapid move to digital healthcare during the pandemic does not leave behind those who are digitally excluded.  

With the Covid Inquiry underway, it is imperative that we capture the lessons learnt from the pandemic and use our new insights to suggest action for the future and hold systems to account on exclusive policies.

Our Work

Throughout the course of the pandemic, and beyond, National Voices has remained responsive to changes in policy, always focused on the impacts felt by people living with health conditions and disability.  

In July 2021, we, along with 56 member organisations, wrote to the Prime Minister expressing our concern over the lifting of most infection control measures. Similarly, in April 2022, we issued a statement on the Government’s ‘Living with COVID’ plan. This plan removed almost all protections in place against the virus, effectively excluding from society those who were immunocompromised and more vulnerable to the virus. 

With digital health inequalities continuing to exist, and waiting lists very high, our reports on people’s experience accessing care remain highly relevant post-pandemic as they discuss how to prioritise what matters to people in health and care. The Doctor Will Zoom You Now was designed to understand the patient experience of the rapid shift to remote and virtual consultations. The Patient Noun Adjective report explores the experience of increasing waiting times for care.  

We are embedding what we learnt during Covid into our future policy. In April 2023 we responded to the UK COVID-19 Inquiry’s draft Terms of Reference. Our Inquiry work has been supported through our work investigating the The Unequal Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was partly based on a member insight session which collected the voices and experiences of minoritised and marginalised communities in the pandemic.   

We have also published a joint statement, supported by 61 of our members, which puts forth our collective concerns surrounding the Autumn/Winter Flu and COVID-19 vaccine rollout for 2023 beyond, as well as sets the standard for other future vaccine roll outs.

Our Asks

  1. Communication: We urge NHS England to learn from the pandemic and ensure that more effective routes for sharing information on health and care preventative are with different communities are developed. Lack of good communication risks widening health inequalities. 48.2% of white British people in the immunosuppressed category received the spring booster vaccination in 2023, in contrast to just 11.1% of Black African people, and 6.8% of people in the Asian Pakistani in the immunosuppressed category (NHSE, 2023).
  2. Co-design: We ask that the JCVI commit to consulting the voluntary, social, community and enterprise sector (VCSE), surrounding next steps for the recovery from the pandemic, including around future vaccination roll-outs so ever-changing eligibility criteria doesn’t risk widening health inequalities
  3. Recognition: There are an estimated 500,000 people in the UK with a weakened immune system who remain highly vulnerable to COVID-19. We call on the Covid Inquiry to recognise those for whom the COVID-19 pandemic will cause ongoing disadvantage and propose solutions that address their ongoing realities. Frontline staff must also respect their real worries and concerns of and proactively offer to wear a mask and improve ventilation when in contact with these people.
  4. Strengthen data: We urge NHS England to commit to strengthening the data available to inform pandemic planning to improve its ability to reach out to those who may need additional support or who may be particularly vulnerable to future pandemics.

Work with us

If this is a topic that is of interest to you and you would like to explore how we might contribute our insights and expertise to your work, we would love to hear from you. We offer consultancy and can design focus groups, roundtables, coaching and workshops to organisations who share our vision for more person-centred and equitable health and care. You can find out more here.

This page was last reviewed in December 2023.