Headlines: April 26th, 2005

A pilot programme in Wales to tackle inequalities in health has shown that service providers can make changes and improve access to health services sometimes at relatively small cost.A new report, “Equity Training and Advocacy Grants – learning from the pilot programme”, sets out the lessons that have been learned from 25 projects across the Local Health Board areas of Cardiff, Carmarthenshire and Denbighshire between November 2003 and April last year.

The projects dealt with issues including domestic abuse, care of pre-school children with learning and emotional difficulties, homelessness and language problems in minority ethnic groups and looked at how these could prevent people accessing health services. The total cost of the pilot programme was 105,000 pounds. The pilot stemmed from the “Targeting Poor Health” report, commissioned by the Welsh Assembly Government and produced by Professor Peter Townsend, Emeritus Professor of Social Policy at the University of Bristol, and a visiting professor at the London School of Economics and University College, Swansea.

That report recommended the use of equity training grants as a means of helping doctors, nurses and other health professionals, as well as members of other organisations, to work together in identifying unmet health needs and to consider what actions were needed to address them.

Welsh Assembly Health and Social Services Minister Dr Brian Gibbons said the pilot programme had demonstrated that service providers could bring about change and improve access to services, sometimes with relatively little investment. “There is a lot we can learn from this report. Action by front-line staff has raised awareness of health inequalities and inequities in access to health care services. In many cases, the pilot projects have also brought about service improvements and changes in working practice,” he said. He urged all those involved in providing health services to reflect on how similar approaches could be taken in their work.