Formative evaluation of the Health Anchors Learning Network

Anchor institutions are large, public sector organisations that are called such because they are unlikely to relocate and have a significant stake in a geographical area – they are effectively ‘anchored’ in their surrounding community. Research undertaken by the Health Foundation in 2019 demonstrated how NHS organisations act as anchor institutions in their local communities, identifying where anchor practices are already taking place and how the NHS can maximise its local influence on the wider determinants of health. However, anchor practices vary in focus, pace and scale across NHS organisations.  

The Health Foundation and NHS England and NHS Improvement have worked with the Innovation Unit to design a joint programme of work to develop a UK-wide learning network of NHS organisations and their partners interested in anchor approaches in health, the Health Anchors Learning Network (HALN). The HALN aims to support NHS organisations and their partners to better understand their role as anchor institutions as well as how they can use anchor approaches to take action to improve the social determinants of health and help reduce inequalities. 

SQW has been commissioned by the Health Foundation to undertake a formative evaluation of the HALN (May 2021 to February 2023). The evaluation aims to assess programme progress against its theory of change and to capture learning from the HALN to support programme development. The evaluation will use a developmental approach to provide timely feedback and allow adaptations to be made during implementation.