The Covid-19 pandemic this year has focused our minds on the structures, needs, positives and negatives of healthcare systems across the world. Last month news of a potential new vaccine raised hopes a little bit. But it also brought into focus the issues around access: who will get the vaccine first, who will have to wait? Who will get it for free, who will have to pay, and why? Who is prepared to pay above the odds to get it earlier than others?
Why does this matter?
Well, how we treat others is an indicator of how much we value each other, value human life, value equality and equity and value democracy. Here in the UK we are lucky enough to have a publicly funded healthcare system (just about). Ensuring that we take an equitable approach to healthcare and vaccine distribution is important. Those that need the vaccine to do their work (healthcare workers, social care workers, key workers) should be first, and then the rest of the population based on an indicator of vulnerability. This would not only prioritise older people, people with underlying conditions, but also prioritise black and minority ethnic people, who are more at risk of contracting Covid-19. Taking this approach would send a significant signal that we are all equal and society values everyone.
More importantly an equity-based approach will also make debates about access to healthcare, and in this case vaccination, moot.
But as things stand, the UK Government’s initial intended approach will see a vaccination programme that will take over 30 years to implement, which is just not appropriate or sustainable, nor does it take notice of the actual needs of people or the situations and conditions that they find themselves in.
That’s the point: access to services and support must be universal and made as easy and user-friendly. Access is a fundamental aspect of living in a democratic society.
So when you’re thinking about how to include the concept of access in your interventions; or in your advice to clients who want to improve their impact, consider the following points:
- Ensure that the people who are intended to benefit from an intervention are integral to designing the intervention
- Make sure that the organisation understands all of its stakeholders and what their ‘stakes’ in the intervention is
- Set up really good feedback loops so that learning and knowledge about the intervention can be shared
How important is access to your work?