Launch of research project investigating how ICS have made use of health inequalities funding

The NHS Confederation is working with Leeds Beckett University, Clarity and the CQC to understand how ICS are working to reduce health inequalities.

2 August 2023

The NHS Confederation, Leeds Beckett University, Clarity and the Care Quality Commission are launching a research project to understand how Integrated Care Systems (ICS) have made use of funding targeted to address health inequalities.

The project has been spearheaded by the NHS Confederation’s ICS Network health inequalities reference group, who are keen to share examples of good practice and learn from each other about how to make best use of the funds for local communities.

Tackling health inequalities is one of four statutory purposes of an ICS. Facilitating a learning system will enable action on health inequalities to be sustained and have a significant impact. The NHS Confederation will support ICSs to understand how to scale innovative approaches, work collaboratively, and model leadership behaviours, so that this funding can be used most effectively.

The research will specifically consider how behavioural factors influenced how targeted funding to reduce health inequalities has been spent and how health leaders were able to leverage any additional funds. The research team, led by Professor Mark Gamsu and Professor Anne-Marie Bagnall from Leeds Beckett University will interview health inequalities leads in Integrated Care Boards (ICB), as well as other senior system leaders.  

Drawing on the research undertaken by Leeds Beckett University and the insight and expertise of Clarity and the Care Quality Commission, we will publish a report and a toolkit with practical guidance for ICBs on how to overcome barriers to invest in impactful action on health inequalities.

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.”

Professor Mark Gamsu and Professor Anne-Marie Bagnall, School of Health, Leeds Beckett University said:

"We are very pleased to be undertaking this work with the NHS Confederation. At Leeds Beckett we know that there are many decision makers in integrated care boards 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.”

Karen Smith, Director of Clarity said:

“Clarity is delighted to have the opportunity to work with the NHS Confederation, Leeds Beckett University and the Care Quality Commission on this project. We recognise, from our work in the sector, that addressing health inequalities is core business for Integrated Care Boards and an area where leaders often require additional support.

"As an organisation, our work focuses on the practicalities of delivering change and we are always looking for tried and tested solutions which have a successful track record. Finding and sharing the right tools and approaches in this area is critical, given the imperative to close the health inequality gap, and to do it quickly.”

Alison Thwaites, Research & Evaluation Manager at the Care Quality Commission said:

“We are excited to be supporting this project in collaboration with the NHS Confederation, Leeds Beckett University and Clarity. We have made a strategic commitment to ensure our approach to regulation is based on evidence, and have launched a research programme to undertake and support research that aligns to priority topics, such as inequalities in care.

"The shared understanding of how ICSs can use available funding to address inequalities generated by this project can inform our approach to ICS assessment, allowing us to enable improvement and the sharing of innovative approaches across systems.”

If you are interested in getting involved or learning more about this project, please contact Ruth Lowe, Policy Associate at the NHS Confederation