Social mobility - why it matters to the NHS | #TeamBartsHealth blogs

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Social mobility - why it matters to the NHS

For the last two years we have submitted Barts Health for assessment in the Social Mobility Index.

This is run by the Social Mobility Foundation to encourage employers to measure the social background of its staff and to support progression where possible.

As in 2017, we came 32nd, which is a respectable position given some of the constraints we work under in terms of recruitment data, and we are the top ranked NHS trust, based mainly on the work we do in engaging schools and local communities through our Community Works for Health and Careers programmes run though the public health team.

Not often you appear in a list above HM Treasury, HM Customs and Excise, and the Royal Navy and Marines, so worth celebrating.

Why do we think this is important?  From a public health point of view access to healthcare is only part of what impacts on population health. Estimates vary, but Hannah Jones at the Health Foundation has put access to healthcare as low as 10%, as against factors relating to housing, employment, environment, food choices and social connectivity. Marmot’s work on health inequality has shown that health outcomes are linked to social status and to life course with early years being especially important. To quote the Health Foundation again, there is 19 year gap in healthy life expectancy between the most and least deprived areas in the UK. Social Mobility issues interact in sometimes complex ways with other factors such as gender, race and disability but almost always add another dimension to these, and can bring into scope populations who may otherwise not feel impacted on by more established protected characteristics. We really can't afford to ignore rising inequalities.

However, there is another reason why we the NHS should care about social mobility.  To deliver high quality healthcare to our communities we should be drawing on the best talent available to us, and to rely on a limited demographic is clearly not just wrong but potentially harmful. In an area like East London we need to make an extra effort to engage with our population which is why we set up the Community Works and Careers programmes to bridge the gap.  But the advantages of sourcing local residents in affordable housing and transport speak for themselves, as well as having advantages in having a workforce that is attuned to the background of our patient population.

Last week (with the help of Dr Martin Griffiths – many thanks Martin) we helped launch the East London Health and Care Partnership’s health and social care careers’ website  and job matching tool  The website has some terrific videos of NHS and Social Care workers from our area or who have made their career here.  Later in the year we hope to expand our healthcare careers offer and will be looking to expand our range of health career champions.

If interested please get in touch at                     

- Andrew Attfield is associate director of public health                 


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