Strategic Drivers

The National Healthcare Inequalities Improvement team supports the health system to reduce healthcare inequalities. Our vision is to deliver exceptional quality healthcare for all through equitable access, excellent experience and optimal outcomes.

Several strategic drivers from the NHS and government inform, guide and support us in our work.

NHS Long Term Plan

The 2019 NHS Long Term Plan sets out commitments to prevent and address healthcare inequalities, taking a more concerted and systematic approach to reducing unwarranted variation in care.

Priorities and operational planning guidance

Building on the measures outlined in the NHS Long Term Plan, eight urgent actions were identified to support NHS action in tackling healthcare inequalities. These have now been refined into the five key priorities, as set out in the operational planning guidance of 2021/2022:

Priority 1: Restoring NHS services inclusively

Priority 2: Mitigating against ‘digital exclusion’

Priority 3: Ensuring datasets are complete and timely

Priority 4: Accelerating preventative programmes

Priority 5: Strengthening leadership and accountability

Government mandate to NHS England

The Government’s Mandate to NHS England is a key part of our accountability to government and sets out our objectives and budgets, which we will be measured against in the coming year.

Addressing health inequalities is a core component and commitment of the government’s 2021-22 mandate to NHS England.

Health and Care Act 2022

The Health and Care Act builds on the proposals for legislative change set out by NHS England in its Long Term Plan. As part of the measures to deliver more joined-up care, every part of England will be covered by an integrated care system (ICS) bringing together NHS, local government and wider system partners to put collaboration and partnership at the heart of healthcare planning.

In November 2020 NHS England and NHS Improvement published Integrating care: Next steps to building strong and effective integrated care systems across England. It describes the four core purposes of an ICS, which include tackling inequalities in outcomes, experience and access:

  • improve outcomes in population health and healthcare
  • tackle inequalities in outcomes, experience and access
  • enhance productivity and value for money
  • help the NHS support broader social and economic development

NHS System Oversight Framework 2022/23

The NHS Oversight Framework for 2022/23 outlines NHS England’s approach to NHS oversight for 2022/23 and is aligned with the ambitions set out in the NHS Long Term Plan and the 2022/23 NHS operational planning and contracting guidance. It also reflects the significant changes enabled by the Health and Care Act 2022 including the formal establishment of integrated care boards and the merging of NHS Improvement (comprising of Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority) into NHS England.

A set of oversight metrics has been published, applicable to integrated care coards, NHS trusts and foundation trusts, to support implementation of the Framework. These will be used to indicate potential issues and prompt further investigation of support needs and align with the five national themes of the NHS Oversight Framework: quality of care, access and outcomes; preventing ill health and reducing inequalities; people; finance and use of resources; and leadership and capability.

Levelling up

The UK Government’s Levelling Up White Paper was published on 2 February 2022. The cross-government plan, led by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, aims to address geographic inequality and spread opportunities more equally across the UK by boosting living standards (pay, productivity, employment), improving public services; restoring a sense of community, local pride and belonging; and empowering local leaders and communities.

Improving health inequalities is one of twelve missions in the Levelling Up White Paper. The UK Government plans to set out a strategy to tackle the core drivers of inequalities in health outcomes in a new white paper on Health Disparities in England in 2022.