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First developed in the US, the term anchor institutions refers to large, typically non-profit, public sector organisations whose long-term sustainability is tied to the wellbeing of the populations they serve. Anchors get their name because they are unlikely to relocate, given their connection to the local population, and have a significant influence on the health and wellbeing of communities.

The Health Foundation worked in partnership with the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) and The Democracy Collaborative to understand how NHS organisations act as anchor institutions in their local communities and can positively influence the social, economic and environmental conditions in an area to support healthy and prosperous people and communities. 

In 2019, we published a report to share the findings of the research. The report also showcases where NHS organisations are already implementing anchor practices and outlines how decision makers can maximise the contribution the NHS makes to the wider determinants of health – the social, economic and environmental conditions that shape good health.

Health Anchors Learning Network

To build on this work, we are working in partnership with NHS England and NHS Improvement to support the Health Anchors Learning Network, delivered by the Innovation Unit.  This is a UK-wide network for people who are interested in, or responsible for, anchor approaches to share ideas, knowledge and skills. 

Our partnership with NHS England and NHS Improvement supports aims set out in the NHS Long Term Plan and builds on the Health Foundation’s work on the contribution of the health and care system to improving health. We hope it will enable the NHS to powerfully impact the wider determinants of health and leverage its assets to mitigate health inequalities and improve population health. 

The role of anchors institutions in COVID-19 recovery

The COVID-19 pandemic has had significant impacts on our health system and the health of local communities. It has created both new opportunities and challenges for NHS organisations adopting anchor strategies. 

Between August and September 2020, the Health Foundation held a series of ‘Anchor and COVID-19 conversations’ with local areas across the UK to:

  • discuss what being an anchor institution means in light of COVID-19
  • share experiences and hear about emerging good practice
  • identify challenges and explore opportunities.

Findings will be shared later this year.

Find out more

To hear more about our work focused on improving health, go to our preference centre, where you can sign up to receive updates via email on topics.

If you’d like us to keep in touch with news and updates about our work on the role of the NHS as an anchor institution, sign up below.

For any wider questions about anchors, please contact hello@haln.org.uk

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