NHS Health Scotland was set up to reduce health inequalities and improve health, but given the Health and Sport Committee’s recent report on the issue, which showed interventions and initiatives have failed to make a difference, you could be forgiven for thinking they face an impossible task.
This week however the special board hosted a ‘How are we doing?’ event at Dynamic Earth, which saw chief executive Gerry McLaughlin and head of strategy Christine Duncan lay out how they gather evidence and work with partners to find solutions. There was extremely interesting table discussions going on throughout the day, with partners from all over Scotland offering suggestions, and at times expressing frustrations. A common theme was about how to engage with communities and facilitate better links between them, the third sector and national co-ordination. If, as the committee found, the NHS can not tackle inequality on its own, how can NHS HS measure its success? One delegate said of her work “in the current economic climate we fight to stop things from getting worse. Is that all we can do?” Another asked if “all roads lead to social prescribing?”
There was a lot of goodwill to improve Scotland’s health in the room, and plenty of desire to collaborate. Success may hinge on who was not in the room though. NHS Health Scotland can only play its own role in an ‘all of government’ approach to inequality, by linking local work to national strategy. But it will interesting to see what happens with the Government’s Community Empowerment Bill, because according to the delegates I spoke to, at the moment communities don’t feel involved in processes, local initiatives are only funded in the short term, and much relies on good community planning.