Key insights from the Chamber Integrating Healthcare Seminar panel discussion on driving down inequalities where panellists showcased examples of best practice.
The Integrating Healthcare Seminar provided a platform for leading experts to address health inequalities and share insights into data-driven solutions. Panellists focussed into various topics, shedding light on specific case studies and lessons learned during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Setting the scene for the whole panel discussion, Dr Ian Basnett, Public Health Director for Barts Health NHS Trust, emphasised the significance of prevention and tackling inequalities through innovative healthcare practices.
Addressing Health Inequalities in Coastal Communities
Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Coastal Communities, and MP for Hastings and Rye Sally-Ann Hart highlighted the alarming health disparities in coastal communities, particularly affecting the elderly.
She highlighted that the Chief Medical Officer’s Annual Report focussed on reducing health inequalities in coastal communities. She stressed that addressing the root causes of health issues, such as deprivation, poor housing, and lack of educational opportunities, is crucial to improving health outcomes. Hart called for increased funding and resources in coastal regions and proposed incentives for healthcare professionals to work in these underserved areas.
Prevention: A Key Approach to Inequalities
During the discussion, Dr Basnett underlined the importance of prevention in reducing health inequalities. He gave the example of the Barts Health NHS Trust which successfully implemented preventive programs, leveraging granular data to target interventions. For instance, a 15-strong team of midwives and advisors helped patients quit smoking, resulting in 200 successful quits within a month. The trust also collaborated with local schools to improve cardiovascular health, providing CPR training to over 8,000 children. The emphasis on prevention and early intervention demonstrated a significant impact on health outcomes.
Tackling Ethnic and Racial Inequalities
Dialling into the event ahead of their report launch in Parliament, CEO of the Race & Health Observatory, Dr Habib Naqvi MBE outlined the disproportionate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on ethnic minority communities. He emphasised the importance of trust-building with diverse communities, especially when it comes to vaccination and healthcare access.
Dr Naqvi stressed that representation in clinical trials is vital to ensure equitable healthcare solutions for diverse populations. He highlighted the need to address the root causes of ethnic and racial inequalities, such as lack of representation in medical research, to rebuild trust and improve health outcomes.
The Role of Social Care Funding
The panellists acknowledged the challenges in social care funding, leading to strains on the NHS budget. Professor Claire Fuller, who had previously discussed her Fuller Stocktake report in a fireside discussion with Rt Hon Patricia Hewitt pointed out that the lack of a national agreement and policy change on social care funding hampers efforts to address health inequalities. Panellists advocated for a comprehensive approach, including tax breaks and benefits for families caring for elderly relatives, to ensure better support for social care services.
Collaboration for Holistic Solutions
Throughout the discussion, collaboration emerged as a critical theme. Panellists stressed the need for multidisciplinary efforts, involving healthcare providers, educational institutions, local authorities, and community leaders. By working together, they can address social determinants of health and develop targeted interventions. The power of data science in targeting and monitoring interventions was also emphasised, enabling health professionals to track progress and make informed decisions.
Tackling Health Inequalities and Funding Challenges in Integrated Care Systems: Insights from Panel Discussions
The question and answer session revolved around various topics related to funding, health inequalities, social care, and the challenges faced by Integrated Care Systems (ICS). One of the key points discussed was the funding constraints and budget allocation. As an Integrated Care Board chief executive accountable for a substantial amount of taxpayers’ money (over £2 billion), one of the audience members highlighted the need for increased investment in both the NHS and social care.
Without a national agreement and proper funding for social care, addressing health inequalities will continue to be a challenge.
Another important issue discussed was the rising cost of essential healthcare services, which poses a long-term risk to fiscal sustainability. One suggested approach was to consider a model of insurance for social care, especially for elderly individuals and those with dementia. Tax breaks and benefits for families taking on the responsibility of caring for their elderly parents were proposed as a means of supporting social care services.
Prevention and early intervention were emphasised as crucial in reducing health inequalities and making healthcare affordable in the long run. This approach involved shifting the focus from a sickness model to a wellbeing-centred one, which requires both current care provision and building a plan for the future simultaneously.
Regarding oral health inequalities, it was acknowledged that oral health is a significant identifier of health inequality, particularly in young people. Integrating dental public health expertise into the ICS system and promoting education and role diversification in healthcare could help address these disparities.
The discussion also touched on the challenge of adopting changes proposed by organisations like NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence). Leadership, policy levers, and cultural shifts were seen as critical factors in accelerating the adoption of measures to reduce inequalities across the country.
Lastly, the question of agency and collective direction in ICS was raised. While there is permission to initiate changes, various constraints like funding, workforce, and operational pressures often hinder the process. Understanding the population’s needs and prioritising attention accordingly were identified as important steps in making meaningful progress.
Overall, the session highlighted the complexity of addressing health inequalities and the need for collaboration, policy support, and sustained efforts to create a more equitable and effective healthcare system.
The Integrating Healthcare Seminar provided valuable insights into bridging health inequalities through data-driven collaboration.
Preventive measures and early interventions demonstrated promising outcomes, and the importance of investing in social care to improve health outcomes was highlighted. By fostering collaborative efforts and leveraging data science, healthcare professionals can work towards reducing health disparities and ensuring equitable access to quality healthcare for all.