The Disability Rights Commission today said institutional discrimination against disabled people in the NHS remained rife, due to a lack of leadership from the Department of Health and regional strategic health authorities.
In one of its final reports before it closes for business tomorrow, the DRC said eight of the 10 SHAs, which have overall responsibility for the NHS in each region, were failing to comply with their legal duty to promote disability equality.
In another study released this week, the DRC said there had been inadequate progress in tackling inequalities in primary healthcare faced by people with mental health problems and learning disabilities, which it highlighted in a key report 12 months ago.
The DRC said some of the most vital recommendations in its September 2006 study, Equal treatment: closing the gap, had not been acted upon, such as a call for the introduction of annual health checks for people with learning disabilities in England.
The commission said there had been an absence of “strategic action at the highest level” of the DH in tackling these inequalities, meaning local health commissioners and providers had not made it a priority.
The news follows a scathing attack on the DH from the Commission for Racial Equality on its record of complying with its race equality duty in relation to health and social care policy.
In today’s report on SHAs’ compliance with the duty on public bodies to promote disability equality, the DRC said just two had produced adequate disability equality schemes, setting out how they will tackle discrimination against and improve services for disabled people.
It called on the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, the single equality watchdog which takes over the DRC’s functions on Monday, to pursue legal action against non-compliant SHAs.
DRC chair Bert Massie said: “This woeful failure is clearly unacceptable – legally and morally. Failing strategic health authorities must be forced to act or face legal action.”