What are health inequalities

Health inequalities are the preventable and unfair differences in health standards between populations and groups arising from unequal distribution of economic, social and environmental conditions. The impact of COVID has brought a sharper focus to pre- existing inequalities within the treatment and outcomes relating to cancer that at their most extreme can determine people’s chances of survival.

Inequalities in accessing care

There are inequalities with regards to accessing healthcare, so improving access for all is a priority for the NHS. Some people may not have access to the internet or have lower digital literacy which can affect booking GP appointments, they may not be able to access care during working hours or be able to travel to appointments, have learning disabilities or not have English as their first language and so find it difficult to convey their needs. 

Inequalities and cancer care

The East of England region has some areas of health inequality with varying experiences of cancer care, poorer outcomes of treatment and increased cancer incidence in some areas. These are linked to a variety of factors such as differing social-economic status, deprivation, ethnicity, age, gender, cancer type and geographical location.


Deprivation is one of the most significant factors impacting on the numbers of people being diagnosed with cancer, as well as on cancer survival rates. Cancer Research UK estimates that if all socio-economic groups had the rates of incidence of the least deprived, then 19,200 deaths could be prevented across the UK. Find out more about deprivation and the link to health inequalities


Health inequalities can be measured by looking at patient experiences and patient feedback. The national patient experience survey shows a slightly less favourable experience of care reported by patients describing themselves as having black, Asian or mixed ethnicity. This has been seen over the past four years across the region, by members of the BAME communities. ​​​​​​

Some of the areas in the region with the most ethnically diverse populations, such as Luton and Thurrock, are also found to have poorer outcomes following their cancer diagnosis.

A local approach

Each of our integrated care systems and the hospital trusts within them have created plans as to how best to tackle health inequalities in their area.

Training in health inequalities

We are currently offering training in health inequalities to anyone working in cancer care in the East of England, registration is now open - sign up and find out more here