Study finds pandemic has spurred shift

January 27, 2022

Fundamental changes to the UK’s approach to the population’s health and wellbeing have been triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic finds the Population Health Report published by BSI, in its role as the UK National Standards Body. The survey of 100 senior decision makers in the NHS finds that the pandemic has spurred collaborative action to tackle broader health determinants that cannot be addressed by medical interventions.

Nearly two thirds (60 per cent) of respondents feel that tackling the root causes of ill health needs a multi-agency approach, which addresses lack of attainment, isolation, unemployment, lack of education or poor lifestyle choices.

However, there are significant non-clinical barriers to population health improvement, 76 per cent cite a lack of co-operation from organizations outside the healthcare sector. Health service leaders are already aware that there are limits to how much they can do alone. Several sectors could play a key role in improving population health outcomes nationally; 52 per cent feel that policing and other safeguarding authorities could make a positive impact, 49 per cent cite the education sector and 48 per cent believe central government will make a positive impact.

NHS leaders are keen to kick-start wider collaborations to improve population health with 71 per cent of NHS organisations already working on a local strategy. However, views are mixed on the next step, as 21 per cent favour the formation of a multi-sector agency to take the agenda forward compared to 20 per cent who think a Government-led approach would be best, such as a population health white paper.

When asked about the impact of improving population health on NHS organizations 75 per cent say it would reduce levels of chronic disease, 62 per cent think it would reduce the number of people waiting for elective care and 60 per cent say it would free up more funding for innovation.

Rob Turpin, Head of Healthcare Standards at BSI, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has had a seismic impact on almost every aspect of our lives – and that impact will continue to reverberate for the foreseeable future. It offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the UK’s health and wellbeing by using a multi-agency approach to tackle underlying causes of ill-health. This approach requires never-before achieved levels of collaboration and cooperation between health and social care services, emergency and safeguarding services, education, housing, businesses, local leadership and a host of other organisations. It’s a watershed moment. Utilizing the power of collaboration will have a lasting impact on how we manage healthcare for decades. By promoting wellness, reducing inequalities and providing health and care interventions at the earliest opportunity across our entire population, we can ensure the NHS does not become over-burdened.

“Standards provide the knowledge that organizations, like the NHS, need to help break down barriers and support transformation. They can offer a set of powerful tools to make businesses and services more innovative and productive. Standards can provide a clear vision, shared benefits and best practices that will have a direct bearing on improving the health and wellbeing of the UK at population level.”

Download the Population Health Report here.

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Notes to the editor:


100 senior NHS decision makers interviewed in June 2021.


  • Scotland 28%
  • Wales 18%
  • Northern Ireland 10%
  • England 44%


  • NHS Trust 45%
  • NHS Health Board 47%
  • Health and Social Care Trust 8%


  • CEO 30%
  • General operational/estates management 20%
  • Clinical/ Practice Management 20%
  • CFO/Finance Director 15%
  • Project Director/Manager 15%