Anchors and social value

The Health Foundation describes anchor institutions as large organisations whose long-term sustainability is tied to the wellbeing of the populations they serve.

These organisations are ‘rooted in place’ and have significant assets and resources which can be used to influence the health and wellbeing of their local community. By strategically and intentionally managing their resources and operations, anchor institutions can help address local social, economic and environmental priorities in order to reduce health inequalities.

Examples of anchor institutions include:

  • NHS Trusts
  • local authorities
  • universities

The NHS as an anchor institution

While the main function of the NHS is to provide health services, we can also play an active role in supporting partner organisations and communities to address the physical, social and environmental factors which can cause ill health; sometimes called the wider determinants of health.

Studies have proven that 80% of health outcomes are determined by non-health related inputs – for example things like education, employment, income, housing and access to green space.

Many hospitals are developing their role as an anchor, making a positive impact on communities. Integrated care systems are increasingly acting as ‘anchor systems’; working with individual NHS organisations to support their anchor ambitions but also collaborating across the system to facilitate joint action to support social and economic development; one of the key four roles for ICS. Primary care networks and ambulance trusts are exploring their role as an anchor too.

Some of the ways the NHS can deliver their role as an anchor institution include:

  • Widening access to quality work: Being a good inclusive employer, paying people the real living wage and creating opportunities for local communities to develop skills and access jobs in health and care especially those experiencing inequalities.
  • Purchasing for social benefit: Purchasing supplies and services from organisations that embed social value to make positive environmental, social and economic impacts
  • Using buildings and spaces to support communities: Widening access to community spaces, working with partners to support high-quality, affordable housing and supporting the local economy and regeneration.
  • Reducing our environmental impact: Taking action to reduce carbon emissions and consumption, reduce waste and protect and enhance the natural environment.
  • Working closely with communities and local partners: Collaborating with communities to help address local priorities, build on their energy and skills; and work with other anchors and partners to increase and scale impact.

Further information

For more information on anchor institutions, join the Health Anchors Learning Network (HALN), a new, UK-wide network for people responsible for, or interested in, anchor approaches in health.

The network provides spaces and opportunities for participants to learn with peers and experts about how anchor organisations can consciously use their resources, influence and work in partnership to improve the social determinants of health and help reduce inequalities.