New health commissioning bodies should learn from the mistakes of their predecessors and take steps to meet their obligations under equality legislation to make a real difference to health outcomes according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
The Commission undertook a study assessing the performance of a sample of Strategic Health Authorities and Primary Care Trusts in England with regard to the race, gender and disability equality duties. It found that many bodies were not taking sufficient action to address the diverse needs of people in Britain and to protect the rights of disadvantaged groups.
The Commission concluded that without a major re-think by new health bodies on how they tackle discrimination and advance equality some groups will continue to experience poorer health. For example:
- Men are less likely to report health conditions than women, leading to worse implications for their health;
- Infant mortality is higher than average among Black Caribbean and Pakistani groups;
- Muslim people tend to report worse health than average; and
- Women report higher incidences of mental health conditions.
Until April 2011, health bodies in England were subject to equality duties regarding race, disability and gender. This meant that public authorities had to take steps to tackle discrimination and promote equality amongst the people they serve. The duties were replaced by the public sector equality duty in April 2011 which covers a wider range of groups such as age, religion or belief and sexual orientation.
Andrea Murray, Director of Policy at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:
“The introduction of the new equality duty and the reorganisation of the NHS is a good time for health bodies to re-think their approach to equality. Our research shows that many health organisations see equality as a box ticking exercise, and few were able to show they have used the duties to make a real difference to the health outcomes of particular groups.
“Acting upon the equality duty will help health organisations to develop effective services that meet patients’ needs, improve the health of the population and tackle disadvantage faced by particular groups.”