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NHS and local authority leaders pledge to tackle health inequalities

Senior NHS, local politicians and community groups came together in November to commit to addressing the biggest challenges impacting the mental health and wellbeing of local communities in south east London.

Over 700 people attended two Community Health Assemblies, held in south east and south west London, including civic and faith organisations, charities, and leaders from the NHS, local authorities, and universities. These events, hosted by Citizens UK, built on the success of the South London Listens Assembly held on World Mental Health Day in 2022.

Participants came together to celebrate the power of community to create positive change and  applaud the progress already made in tackling health inequalities in the region through South London Listens. Communities shared powerful stories with senior NHS and local authority leaders about how their own health is impacted by issues such as low wages, the impact of the housing crisis on health, and racial inequities, especially for migrant communities.

Across the two events, senior south London NHS leaders pledged to address several important issues. These pledges build on the work of South London Listens to-date and covered the following issues:

  • Work and wages: Championing a real living wage for people living and working in south east London – and the ICBs committing to publish action plans in 2024 on how they will become Living Wage Systems.

  • Children, young people and parents: Ensuring young people and parents have the support they need, especially during their wait for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, and maintaining up-to-date signposting to resources for parents.

  • Housing: Convening system partners to build an action plan which uses the evidence base of the impact of housing on health and wellbeing so that solutions can be identified and implemented.

  • Mental health and social isolation: Continuing to resourcing and support Be Well organisations, that provide community mental health and organising support for people across south east London

  • Race and migration: Tackling racial disparities, especially for migrant communities, through expanding work on the safe surgeries initiative, and expanding the Community Embedded Worker programme

Ann Beasley, Chair of South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust and Chair of the South London Listens Taskforce, said: 

The energy in the room was palpable – as was the appetite to make change. This moment was a powerful example of how we in the NHS and local authorities can, and should, work in genuine partnership with local communities to tackle social and economic challenges to create a happier and healthier society.

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