Leeds City Council’s executive board is set to discuss a refreshed version of the Leeds Health and Wellbeing Strategy, which aims to enhance health outcomes and tackle inequalities within the city. The meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, July 26, at Civic Hall, will evaluate the report that updates the previous strategy spanning from 2016 to 2021. The new strategy will serve as a framework for improving health and well-being in Leeds up until 2030.

The refreshed strategy centres around the vision of Leeds becoming a healthy and caring city that caters to individuals of all age groups. It places a particular emphasis on assisting the poorest individuals in improving their health at an accelerated pace. By addressing the root causes of poor health, such as housing, employment opportunities, education, and the environment, and prioritising the reduction of inequalities in these areas, the strategy seeks to prevent ill health by fostering resilience and enabling people to lead happier, healthier lives.

Integration of health and care services is another key focus of the strategy, aiming to address the challenges faced by local residents when accessing support at hospitals, general practitioners, dentists, and other healthcare facilities.

The Leeds Health and wellbeing board, comprising senior representatives from various organisations, including Leeds City Council, the NHS, the community sector, and Healthwatch, has developed and will oversee the implementation of the strategy. Although work on the refresh had already commenced, it was temporarily halted due to the unprecedented challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, as the city redirected its efforts toward managing the crisis.

The refreshed strategy underscores the importance of partnership approaches to improving health in the city, particularly recognising the value and strength of numerous community sector organisations that diligently support the most vulnerable individuals. Building upon the work conducted in recent years, including community responses to the pandemic and the ongoing cost of living crisis, the strategy also prioritises the welfare of carers, the creation of safer and sustainable communities, and the promotion of mental health for all residents. It highlights the significance of forging stronger partnerships between the health and housing sectors, and places great emphasis on the influence of good, secure employment on people’s overall health.

Furthermore, the strategy will play a vital role in the realisation of Leeds’ Best City Ambition, which unites health and wellbeing partners with those working on inclusive growth and zero-carbon initiatives, collectively combating poverty and enhancing the quality of life for all Leeds residents.

The strategy’s key priorities have been greatly influenced by discussions held during the Big Leeds Chat in 2021. Through 43 conversations across the city, people of all ages shared their experiences concerning health and wellbeing and expressed their concerns. This feedback reinforces the need for inclusive decision-making processes that prioritise people’s involvement and amplify the voices of those living with inequalities.

To gain direct insights into the needs of marginalised communities, the Leeds Health and wellbeing board has established an allyship program. This initiative connects board members with key third-sector organisations within the city, ensuring that the priorities of all communities guide the strategy’s implementation.

The refreshed strategy outlines the following 12 priority areas of focus for Leeds:

Providing the best start and promoting healthy ageing in a Child Friendly and Age Friendly City
Building strong, engaged, and well-connected communities
Improving housing to enhance health and wellbeing
Creating safe and sustainable places that safeguard and promote health and wellbeing
Encouraging an active lifestyle for all residents, more frequently
Developing a strong economy with ample local job opportunities
Maximizing the benefits of world-leading research, innovation, and technology
Promoting prevention and improving outcomes through integrated health and care services
Cultivating an inclusive, valued, and well-trained workforce
Supporting carers and empowering individuals to maintain independent lives
Ensuring the best care is delivered in the right place and at the right time
Cultivating a mentally healthy city for everyone.

Commenting on the strategy refresh, Leeds City Council executive member for health partnerships and chair of the Leeds Health and wellbeing board Councillor Fiona Venner said; “I very much welcome this refresh of the Leeds Health and Wellbeing Strategy to guide us through to 2030, rooted in the reality of people’s lived experiences such as the everyday challenges of accessing doctors and dental care, and putting people at the heart of everything we do.

“The value of partnership working across all sectors and communities in Leeds was essential in our response to the pandemic and continues to be vital in the current cost of living crisis, and that approach must continue to be strengthened in the coming years. In keeping with our Best City Ambition, we are committed to breaking the cycle of poverty and improving the quality of life for everyone in Leeds. Improving health outcomes, and ensuring Leeds is a healthy and caring city for all, is an essential part of that.”

Jim Barwick, Chief Executive, Leeds GP Confederation, and member of the Leeds Health and wellbeing board, said:

“We know how difficult it is for people right now, and we have heard first-hand the challenges that people are facing in accessing health and care services. All health and care providers in the city have been working hard to increase appointments so that people can access the support they need. For example, in primary care, there are now on average an extra 4,000 appointments available per day than before the pandemic.

“We know there is more we can do to improve access and experiences of care. Through the Leeds Health and Wellbeing Strategy, partners are committed to integrating health and care services, enabling us to better share the excellent skills, expertise, and resources to improve outcomes for people when they access our services.

“We want people to be confident that when they do need access to health and care, they will get the service they deserve, and in a health and care setting that is best for them. This is why I am happy to endorse this new strategy which prioritises health and care integration and will enable people to get the best care, in the right place, at the right time.”

Corrina Lawrence, Chief Executive of Feel Good Factor, and third sector representative on the Leeds Health and wellbeing board said; “The past few years have been extremely challenging for everybody, and we know that some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in Leeds are a higher risk of living with poor physical and mental health. Not only is that unfair for them, but it also means they are less likely to be in full-time work, which means they have less spending power, affecting the economy, and putting them at risk of other issues such as being unable to heat their homes, or not being able to access quality food. This in turn means they are more likely to rely on health and care services. It is a vicious circle that needs to be broken.

“The good news is that we can change this, and the hundreds of dedicated community sector organisations in Leeds will continue to play a leading role in improving people’s lives and changing their outcomes. It is fantastic to see the community sector recognised in the Leeds Health and Wellbeing Strategy for the imperative role they play, and I am glad to be able to endorse it on behalf of the sector.”

The refreshed strategy will be considered by the Leeds Health and wellbeing board at its meeting at Civic Hall on Thursday (20 July) before being discussed next week by the executive board.

To see the strategy and supporting report, visit Council and Democracy (leeds.gov.uk) (agenda item 9).