Health inequalities are increasing in the UK and the COVID-19 pandemic has provided renewed impetus to find solutions to these unfair and avoidable differences in our population’s health. In addition to addressing the social determinants of health, we must also consider whether elements of healthcare itself systematically disadvantage vulnerable groups of patients. The National Patient Safety Team has set out its strategic objectives to understand whether differences in risk of harm from healthcare are a contributing factor to health inequalities.
Here we presented the findings of a mixed-methods review exploring whether risk of harm from healthcare varies between different groups of patients, what the mechanisms driving these differences are, and what possible solutions may be able to reduce these inequalities. This presents an integration of the patient safety and health inequalities agendas, which offers a novel perspective on the possible role healthcare professionals, organisations and systems could play in both improving patient safety and reducing health inequalities.