Healthcare Commission to probe NHS trusts on race equality

The Healthcare Commission is to probe over 40 NHS trusts which are at most risk of failing on their duty to promote race equality. The news came as the commission published a survey of trusts’ websites for apparent compliance with legal duties on public bodies regarding race and disability equality.

Just 35 out of 394 trusts appeared fully compliant with the race equality duty, which has been in place since 2002, though this is up from seven in a similar survey last year last year. The duty includes requirements to publish a race equality scheme, setting out how bodies will tackle inequalities, workforce monitoring data and race equality impact assessments of policies.

Mental health trusts, for whom race is a particularly acute issue given evidence of significant racial inequalities in services, were performing better than average. Over 85% had produced a race equality scheme, compared to an average of 77%, half had produced workforce monitoring data, compared to a 34% average, and over 30% had published outcomes of race equality impact assessments as against 16% of all trusts.

As of spring this year, when the survey took place, 82% of trusts, and 90% of mental health trusts, had published disability equality schemes, a requirement since December 2006. However, in a report in September, significant questions were raised  by the now defunct Disability Rights Commission over NHS compliance with the disability equality duty.

Sian Thomas, deputy director of NHS Employers, said a number of trusts may have complied with the duties but not made this clear on their websites. But she added: “The legislation on race, and to some extend on disability, has been in place for quite some time and we really need to see some improvement. Our role is to help trusts translate compliance into best practice.” 

The news comes with concerns, recently articulated by the new Equality and Human Rights Commission, that the race, disability and gender equality duties on public bodies will be watered down under goverenment plans.

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