A new report published by the World Health Organization Collaborating Centre on Investment for Health and Well-being, at Public Health Wales, has found that tackling inequality could save hospitals in Wales £322 million every year.

This is the equivalent of a brand new NHS hospital, or the yearly salaries of nearly 10,000 extra nurses every year, according to a new report from Public Health Wales. Alternatively, the money saved could also provide four times the funding required for the Welsh Government’s flagship programme Flying Start, which seeks to support the most disadvantaged families, communities and young children in Wales.

The report looking at different hospital services, says preventative action targeted at improving the health equity between advantaged and disadvantaged communities could help reduce a £322 million healthcare gap, especially in emergency admissions and Accident and Emergency attendance.

This is particularly relevant during the Coronavirus pandemic response and future recovery of the NHS and the wider economy in Wales. 

Minister for Health and Social Services Eluned Morgan said: “This piece of work once again demonstrates the link between ill health and deprivation – a link which will have sadly been deepened by the impact of the pandemic. 

“The NHS is only part of the story in reversing deep-seated health inequalities, which mean that people in deprived areas often have the poorest health. We need to look at the everyday causes of ill health, including education, housing and employment. Research has shown that improving these can help to end the cycle of health inequalities. But we also need to continue our work to improve access to healthcare and better management of people’s existing long-term conditions in the community, closer to where they live.”

Mark Bellis, Director of the WHO CC at Public Health Wales said:

“Sadly, for many decades those with lower incomes, less resource and living in more deprived communities often suffer worse health throughout their lives. They can develop more health problems at younger ages including well established causes of ill health and early death such as heart disease and are also more at risk from new threats including COVID-19. In this report from Public Health Wales we have examined how much money could be saved in NHS health hospital care costs if we closed this inequalities gap. The findings identify that around £9 in every £100 spent in hospitals are as a result of continued health inequalities, amounting in Wales to around a third of a Billion pounds every year. This is only the cost of inequalities to hospital services and future work by Public Health Wales will examine the savings possible in primary and social care settings if we tackle health inequalities.”

Dr Brendan Collins, Head of Health Economics in Welsh Government, said:

“This is a really useful piece of work that demonstrates that spend on hospital care is higher on people in more deprived areas; the social gradient is greatest for unplanned care which may indicate a higher risk of trauma, injuries and other unplanned care needs, and may indicate opportunities to diagnose and manage long term conditions better in the community, focusing on more deprived areas. The health system is only one part of the story; we need to look at the everyday causes of health like education, housing, and employment and how we prevent ill health across the life course – issues that have been illuminated even more by the pandemic.”

The full report can be accessed here.

Explore the data in detail

The report is accompanied by an interactive dashboard allowing you to see in detail, the costs associated with inequality by service category, sex, age and level of deprivation. The interactive tool can be accessed here.

Please note, the dashboard is optimised for use on desktop devices.