Community and NHS leaders pledge to tackle health inequalities across South East London

21 Nov 2023

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

The South East London Citizens Community Health Assembly, hosted by Citizens UK, was attended by hundreds of people, including Citizens UK member institutions, South London Listens BeWell organisations, civic and faith institutions, local authorities, NHS trusts and universities.

Participants came together to celebrate the power of community to create positive change, applaud the progress already made in tackling health inequalities in the region and share powerful stories with senior NHS 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.

At the event, senior south east London NHS leaders pledged to address several important issues. These pledges cover the following issues:

  • Work and wages: Championing a real living wage for people living and working in south east London
  • 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
  • Housing: Developing solutions to mitigating the impact of the housing crisis on health and wellbeing (and becoming the first ICS in the country to do so)
  • Mental health and social isolation: Continuing resourcing and supporting BeWell organisations, that provide community mental health support for people across south east London
  • Race and migration: Tackling racial disparities, especially for migrant communities

Andrew Bland, Chief Executive, South East London Integrated Care Board said:

“The assembly was a true testament to the power of listening and putting power back into the hands of local communities to improve health outcomes and reduce inequalities.

The place you live, the job you do, and the income you earn are important building blocks of health. That’s why we want to support people’s health and wellbeing by taking action to create better opportunities and champion a real living wage for people working in our anchor institutions.”

On the night, Betty Efemini, Director of Holistic Well Women, a BeWell Hub, said:

Tonight is about building a relationship – not just this evening but for the long term.

So often our communities are not part of making the decisions that impact their lives.

Tonight is about celebrating all the work we have done and are doing to bring communities to the table.”

The assembly followed the success of last year’s South London Listens Accountability Assembly and celebrated the progress collectively made on the issues discussed there. Points of progress include:

  • The Creating Ground team, who addressed the concerns of those who live in temporary accommodation and struggle with access to wi-fi by securing a commitment from Greenwich Council to pilot giving SIM cards to people in temporary accommodation.
  • 61 community organisations providing wellbeing and mental support through BeWell Hubs, including the 2nd New Testament Church of God in Lee, who now have 13 trained BeWell Champions and the Familia y autismo, who are launching a Spanish-speaking BeWell Hub.
  • 2600 people obtaining a pay rise due to the Living Wage campaign.
  • More than doubling the amount of ‘Safe’ GP surgeries in South East London, where all are welcome to care, regardless of immigration status.

The evening also celebrated the rich culture, vibrancy and diversity of south east London, with performances from two LatinX dance groups, powerful poetry from the Harris East Dulwich Girls school, a beautiful act from the King’s College London Acapella Group and a heartwarming recital from the Iqra Primary School choir.

The evening cemented partners’ commitment to building stronger relationships, sharing power, listening to their communities, co-producing solutions, and taking action to overturn the inequalities which have a devastating impact on health and wellbeing.