Since devolution in 1998, many aspects of public policy in Great Britain have diverged between England, Scotland and Wales, including how targets and performance assessment are used in the National Health Service and local government. Health inequality is an example where all three countries have recognized a need to act but approaches to performance assessment differ. Based on interviews with senior managers, the complexity of health inequality as an object of local intervention is explored and compared. Despite contrasting approaches to targets, local discourses in all three countries had significant similarities. Health inequality had to compete against a preoccupation with improving access to acute services generally and balancing budgets over the short term. There was a bias in the interventions described towards targeting health behaviours, but with limited use of evidence about efficacy, and indications that measuring progress with reducing health inequalities was starting to lead to an emphasis on 'quick wins' from pharmacological interventions.