Leeds Beckett University has joined forces with the NHS Confederation, Clarity and the Care Quality Commission to understand how Integrated Care Systems (ICS) nationwide have made use of funding targeted to address health inequalities.
The new research project – led by Professor Mark Gamsu and Professor Anne-Marie Bagnall at Leeds Beckett University – has been spearheaded by the NHS Confederation’s ICS Network health inequalities reference group. The project’s aim is to share examples of good practice across the network and learn from each other about how to make best use of funding made available for the benefit of local communities.
Professor Mark Gamsu in the School of Health at Leeds Beckett University explained: “Each year, £200million is made available by the NHS and divided among the 43 ICSs in England to strengthen action to tackle inequalities across integrated care systems. This is recurrent funding with quite broad criteria for how it is used – so is a fantastic opportunity to develop strategic levers for system change.
“In 2021/22 this funding was specifically ring-fenced to be spent on health inequalities. In subsequent years, it is not ring-fenced – and in a climate where the NHS is under tremendous pressure in terms of demand and funding, it will be particularly important that this funding is still available to support work on addressing health inequalities.”
The Leeds Beckett team will interview health inequalities leads in Integrated Care Boards (ICB), as well as other senior system leaders. The research will focus on how behavioural and cultural factors affected how this funding was used.
Professor Gamsu said: “We are very pleased to be undertaking this work on behalf of the NHS Confederation. At Leeds Beckett we know that there are many decision makers in Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) who are developing meaningful action plans – but who would benefit from further support with wider cultural, policy and capability challenges. Sharing the successes, and challenges, faced by inequalities leads in ICBs will make an important contribution to developing more effective action.”
Leeds Beckett University’s research will be used in conjunction with the insight and expertise of Clarity – healthcare change consultants – and the Care Quality Commission to create a report and a toolkit. This will contain practical guidance for ICBs on how to overcome barriers to invest in impactful action on health inequalities.
Tackling health inequalities is one of four statutory purposes of an ICS. The research and resulting toolkit will enable action on health inequalities to be sustained and have a significant impact. The NHS Confederation will also support ICSs to understand how to scale innovative approaches, work collaboratively, and model leadership behaviours, so that this funding can be used most effectively in the future.
Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “Integrated Care Systems will play a key role in tackling health inequalities and supporting communities to live long, healthy lives. I encourage system leaders and health inequalities leads to seize the opportunity to participate in this project, which will support healthcare leaders to adopt best practice and turn the tide on health inequalities.”