Health inequalities

Healthcare is often hardest to access for those who need it most. With a backdrop of escalating social inequalities, it is more important than ever for our healthcare system to confront the stark reality of the health inequalities cutting people’s lives short.

GPs play a pivotal role in addressing health inequalities as they are first-hand witnesses of the health and social issues experienced by socioeconomically deprived communities.

Reducing the increasing gap in health inequalities is one of the College’s strategic priorities for 2023-2026. We want every patient across the UK to be able to receive the best care possible despite their circumstances, background, or characteristics, and to ensure that general practice as an anchor institution within communities can continue to champion the reduction of these inequalities.

Key statistics on health inequalities 

Breaking the inverse care law

Our May 2024 report ‘Breaking the inverse care law in UK general practice’ explores the impact of the social determinants of health on patients and identifies key recommendations that could be actioned in general practice to help reduce health inequalities.

Breaking the inverse care law in UK general practice (PDF file, 928 KB)

Our key recommendations to UK governments and health systems

  • Policymakers, commissioners, and providers of health services across the UK should offer tailored support for socioeconomically deprived, underserved, and inclusion health groups, as part of efforts to improve patient access.
  • All general practice funding streams should be reviewed to better match resources with needs, in alignment with the principles of proportionate universalism, alongside increased investment across general practice.
  • Ring-fenced and flexible funding should be allocated across the UK to all regional or locality-based structure levels in primary and community care to better respond to the needs of their populations and comply with their duties on health inequalities reduction.
  • Governments across all four nations of the UK should commit ringfenced funding for Deep End projects, which bring together GPs working in areas of socioeconomic deprivation to identify practical ways to address health inequalities and to learn from one another.
  • Governments should evaluate existing GP recruitment and retention schemes across the UK to ensure they focus on supporting recruitment and retention in socioeconomically deprived areas and implement additional schemes where needed.
  • Medical school curricula and training programmes for healthcare professionals across the UK should be reviewed to ensure curricula include education on health inequalities and social determinants of health. In addition, support should be provided to expand health equity-focused GP training programmes.
  • Governments should provide support to expand training capacity in practices in socioeconomically deprived areas, and where possible, ensure new medical schools are sited in these areas.
  • Ensure all practices across the UK have access to high-quality data and analytical tools that facilitate understanding of their community's health needs.
  • Governments across the UK should produce a cross-government strategy to reduce health inequalities, which recognises and commits to reducing the impact of social determinants on population health, using every available policy lever, and is underpinned by the necessary funding.

Campaigning progress

Following the launch of our ‘Breaking the inverse care law in UK general practice’ report, the RCGP, The Health Foundation, the NHS Confederation’s Primary Care Network, and National Voices came together to call on the Government to urgently address health inequalities by reforming general practice funding.

Health inequalities joint letter (PDF file, 508 KB)

To engage with MPs on this topic, we produced and circulated a dedicated briefing on reforming general practice funding in England to tackle health inequalities.

Parliamentary briefing - Breaking the inverse care law in general practice (PDF file, 499 KB)

Useful links

Previous reports and resources

In May 2015, RCGP published a policy paper detailing our position on the role of the GP in addressing health inequalities.

In September 2013, The RCGP published the Social Inclusion Commissioning Toolkit intending to widen the access to health services and contribute to improving the health outcomes of marginalised groups, by looking specifically at homeless people, Gypsies and Travellers, and sex workers.

In 2010, RCGP Scotland Health Inequalities Short Life Working Group published a report 'Time to Care: health inequalities, deprivation and general practice in Scotland'.

In 2009, the RCGP published a statement on the role of primary care in the reduction of health inequalities as input to the Marmot Review

In 2002, driven by the RCGP Standing Group on Health Inequalities, The College published a statement with recommendations around homelessness in primary care.

Access to a range of content about the Deep End Project can be found here: