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Health inequalities

In England, some groups of people are likely to die younger and live less years of their life in good health because of the conditions in which they are born, grow, live and work. We also know the same groups often experience significant inequalities in their access to, experience of and outcomes from health and care. We believe this is unjust and avoidable. We advocate for more equitable health and care services, designed to reduce health inequalities.

Our Stance

Health inequalities are unjust and avoidable differences in health between different groups of people which can be caused or exacerbated by the care they receive and the wider social opportunities they have access to to lead healthy lives.  

They are driven by a range a wide range of social factors. To address this, we need to see cross-government action on the wider determinants of poor health which can range from inadequate housing to poor education. It remains shocking that men living in the most affluent areas in England will likely live almost a decade longer than men in the most deprived.

While the NHS cannot solve health inequalities alone, it must address those that exist within its own service, most often seen in terms of inequity of access and treatment, longer waiting times and quality of life of outcomes. For example, while the NHS cannot fix the cost-of-living crisis alone, it must consider the implications the cost prescriptions and transport to appointments will have on acerbating unequal health outcomes. 

Shining a light on health inequalities is a key element to much of our work at National Voices. We work with the NHS and Government to identify inequities, develop solutions, and monitor implementation and outcomes. But where services and decision makers don’t follow through on their promises or legal duties, we are not afraid to hold systems to account.  

Health inequalities are bad for everyone. Without actively addressing the causes of health inequalities and seeking practical solutions, both the NHS and local communities will be less vibrant, more fragile to change and will have their long-term survival put at risk. 

Our Work

Together with over 200 members, who connect us with the experiences of thousands of people, we are dedicated to highlighting health inequalities to senior policy stakeholders to ensure solutions are developed that specifically address the requirements of those most in need. If we can’t get it right for them, then we can’t get things right for everyone else.

In 2021, National Voices’ annual conference tackled health inequality, and focused on the intersections between health inequalities and poverty, race and digital inequalities.

In 2022, we gathered insight and intelligence from our members on what the cost of living crisis means for people living with health conditions. This topic was discussed at length by Keir Starmer in Prime Minister’s Questions after we put him in touch with one of our members, Kidney Care UK, and Phoenix, who was living with a kidney condition, shared his story about his experience using home dialysis. 

Through our community connectors work, as part of NHS England’s Core20PLUS5 health inequality programmes we are also working to improve community support which can make a clear difference to quality of life. 

Our Asks

  1. Call it out: We are asking all those involved in health and its wider determinants to ensure that they recognise and address the impact of health inequalities in the work they are doing.
  2. Involve diverse communities: Actively seek to speak to those in the community that are most impacted by health inequalities. National Voices can help ensure real lived experience and the diverse needs of all underpins work across the health and care system.
  3. Apply learning: While active listening is essential, it is worthless unless action is taken to address the concerns raised. With trust in the NHS at a low, it is also important that systems let those they engaged with know what action they have taken. 
  4. Join us: If you work for a charitable organisation and are interested in joining National Voices as a member to ensure you are part of these conversations and influencing opportunities please contact us and we’d be happy to have a conversation. 
  5. Media: If you are a journalist, please do your bit to call out one of the biggest injustices facing the UK at the moment. If are interested in working with us on this topic, please contact our Communications Manager.

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.