We recently published our manifesto for the upcoming general election, outlining a vision for improving healthcare services and rebuilding the relationship between patients and the NHS.

One key demand is the need for a health in all policies approach by the next Government. An approach that promotes wellbeing and prevents illness through coordinated efforts across all areas of government.


With millions on waiting lists, improving access to health services is of course desperately needed. But on its own such an agenda is insufficient in supporting those most affected by health inequalities and poor health outcomes.

To better serve these groups, the next Government must deliver policies both within and beyond the healthcare system that enable people to live well.

A first step is introducing a cross-government strategy focused on improving public health through all departments. This is something the Patients Association has called for, for a long time.

Different governmental departments play varied roles in shaping public welfare. For example, education policy impacts health literacy, labour policy affects workplace risks, and environmental policy determines pollution exposure. No single department can have a full overview of how their policies interact to help or harm the public’s health. That’s why the next Government must ensure governmental departments have aligned incentives, share resources and work together on issues that affect health.

Patient insights

Patients should directly inform the content and approach of this cross-governmental strategy. The Patients Association can provide insights from diverse patient groups that policymakers have in the past overlooked. Such input will ensure that the strategy reflects real patient needs and experiences.

The strategy should set clear targets and framework for narrowing health inequalities. Specific interventions should target factors such as education, housing, environment, transport, and the work people do, all of which have the potential to drive unequal health outcomes.

Any policy

To fully embed this approach as a governmental priority means that all governmental policies should be assessed for their public health impacts. For example, transport can influence health – improved pedestrian infrastructure has the potential to reduce pollution and encourage physical activity. By undertaking such assessments and consulting with patients and the public, policymakers can weigh both intended and unintended health consequences of all policy initiatives.

With the NHS under such pressure and health inequalities increasing, now is the time to re-wire our health system so that patients and the public have a greater say in how we can improve our health. A new cross government approach that embeds public health assessments in all policies would be a significant step forward. The next Government should make it a priority.

Rachel Power, Chief Executive

Read our manifesto