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International research project launched to explore role of healthcare institutions in local economies

The Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) and The Democracy Collaborative (TDC) will today announce the launch of a joint research project to explore the role of the NHS within local economies across the UK.

Funded by the Health Foundation, the project will seek to identify the practical challenges and enablers of NHS institutions as ‘anchor institutions’ as well as developing a route map for progressing their role.

Anchor institutions are large established organisations, rooted in local communities, which can improve local economic and social wellbeing through the use of their assets, employment practices, and spend.

Dr Dominique Allwood, Assistant Director of Improvement and Consultant in Public Health Medicine for the Health Foundation said:

‘While the idea of anchor institutions is not a new one, the narrative around the concept in the UK has tended to focus on the university sector or local councils rather than the health service. We therefore see a great opportunity to consider the role that the NHS can play in leveraging its assets to create the conditions for healthy and prosperous local communities throughout the country. We hope that this valuable work will ultimately provide evidence around the potential of NHS organisations as anchor institutions and a clear framework for how this could work in practice.’

The Centre for Local Economic Strategies and The Democracy Collaborative will combine their expertise, networks, and experience to deliver this work.

For over a decade, CLES, an independent think and do tank, has been at the forefront of understanding and shifting the behaviour of anchor institutions across the UK and Europe, as part of a local wealth building approach to economics. The think do tank also played a formative and collaborative role in the much acclaimed Preston Model.

Neil McInroy, Chief Executive of the Centre of Local Economic Strategies said:

‘This collaboration is a welcome and timely opportunity to explore the potential of our NHS to realise greater local wealth and health benefits. By considering health institutions as anchors rooted in our local places, and identifying who they employ, what they purchase and what land and property assets they hold, we can begin to unlock their potential in developing local economies.’

In North America, The Democracy Collaborative has played a leading role in demonstrating that anchor institutions in the healthcare sector have the potential to leverage their considerable assets to reshape local places and empower communities to build a more equitable, inclusive, and democratic economy.

Ted Howard, Co-founder and President of The Democracy Collaborative said:

‘For a healthcare institution, using their hiring, purchasing, and investment resources to support a thriving local economy isn’t just the right thing to do: it also helps build the stable economic foundations a healthy community needs. We’ve seen tremendous momentum around such anchor institution strategies in the US healthcare sector, and are excited and honoured to be working with the Health Foundation, CLES, and experts from the NHS to explore the possibilities for similar transformative shifts in the UK.’