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Key issues identified for those disproportionately affected by health inequalities

The findings of new research commissioned by NHS Property Services (NHSPS), and published today, 25 October, reveal what matters most to 10 different communities ‘disproportionately affected by health inequalities’ when they access and use repurposed NHS community spaces.

The participating communities included carers, people from the LGBTQ+ community,  those living in more ‘isolated’ rural communities, and women of South Asian origin. Among the findings of the research – which was undertaken for NHSPS by the Health Creation Alliance – were a need for greater access to health community spaces, multi-functional spaces open to different communities and cultures, and an inclusive environment. NHSPS points out that health inequalities ‘remain high on the national health agenda’, with the Department of Health & Social Care recently announcing £50 million in funding for local authorities to ‘turbo-charge research’ into health inequalities for their local area. The government-owned property and estate organisation says the research’s findings will inform its work, and be the driving force of its national social prescribing programme ‘to support the creation of healthier communities’. It says it will target over 70% of discretionary spend in 2022/23 towards areas of high deprivation, working with social prescribing partners to provide key services in the community, and ‘creating flexible space to adapt to local needs’.

NHSPS said: “The research provides a wealth of information about the nuances and drivers behind what works for different types of communities, and draws attention to the many commonalities – things that matter to most communities – in eight ‘big themes’. It also includes 12 recommendations. 

Key findings include:

• Access is a key consideration for many people – in terms of transport to the venue, access to the building, and mobility around the premises. Communities value a sense of ownership of the space, and a say in how it is run.

• Multi-functional spaces open to many different types of communities, cultures, and generations, are most popular e.g., a parent coming for immigration advice, while the child comes for a sport activity to the same venue.

• Many groups benefit from a calm, welcoming environment, with sensory spaces, inclusive spaces and an affordable community café.

Rhea Horlock, head of Corporate Social Responsibility at NHSPS, said: “These findings highlight the importance of appropriate space in creating healthier communities. We have already transformed 69 vacant or under-utilised spaces for use by community groups and the provision of non-clinical services as part of our national social prescribing programme. As we continue to transform our spaces, we will use the findings to make sure that all communities can use NHS spaces to create health in ways that work for them.”

With what it dubs ‘widespread consensus of the need to take a different approach to health – as detailed in the NHS Long Term Plan’, NHSPS says it is ‘working to shift the dial from a system designed to treat illness, to one that works in partnership with communities to create health – where NHS spaces go beyond treatment to become places that support communities to connect, and build their confidence and collective agency to get the things they need to become and stay well’. The organisation added: “The need for this has never been greater, with health inequalities already widened by the COVID-19 pandemic, and set to be exacerbated by a cost-of-living crisis, reminding us just how much our health is shaped by our environment.”

Merron Simpson, Chief Executive of The Health Creation Alliance (pictured during a webinar held on 25 October, 2022 to launch the research), said: “Health and wellbeing are enhanced when people and communities gain control over their lives and environments. Gaining access and a sense of ownership of suitable spaces can be a tremendous boost when those spaces are accessible, welcoming, and enable people to come together to do the things they love. We were delighted to partner with NHSPS to bring forward this research, which shows a huge willingness of different types of communities to share spaces with others to support community cohesion and health creation.” 

The 10 community groups selected to participate in the research were:

  • Carers.
  • People with, or recovering from, drug and alcohol dependency.
  • Rural communities.
  • People with a learning disability.
  • People of Somali origin or heritage.
  • People with experience of mental ill-health.
  • People from the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Women from South Asian origin or heritage.
  • Disabled people.
  • People from the Roma community.

The Health Creation Alliance describes itself as ‘the leading national cross-sector network addressing health inequalities through Health Creation’. It explained: “Our mission is to increase the number of years people live in good health in every community. We are community leaders, people with lived experience of poverty and discrimination and professionals from many sectors working together to transform systems from the bottom up, so that Health Creation becomes business as usual, and recognised as equally important to treating illness and preventing ill health.”

 

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Upcoming Events

The Fire Safety Event

NEC, Birmingham
25th - 27th April 2023

Facilities Show

ExCeL London
16th - 18th May

NAHFO Conference 2023

Crowne Plaza, Stratford-upon-Avon
5th - 7th June 2023

Healthcare Estates

Manchester Central
10th - 11th October 2023

Access the latest issue of Health Estate Journal on your mobile device together with an archive of back issues.

Download the FREE Health Estate Journal app from your device's App store

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