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Equality Act

Volume 455: debated on Thursday 18 January 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what guidance she has issued to primary care trusts on meeting the obligations of the Equality Act 2006 on gender equality duty; (116084)

(2) what support she has made available to primary care trusts to enable them to comply with the requirements of the Equality Act 2006 gender duties.

The Department has undertaken a number of activities to promote equality issues in the national health service (NHS), including the forthcoming gender equality duty, and particularly to support the NHS in meeting its responsibilities under the gender duty. The Department’s strategy for promoting gender equality in the NHS is to set action on gender issues within the overall framework for planning and delivering the Department’s and the NHS’s priorities.

The Department has worked closely with NHS organisations to prepare them for the gender duty when it comes into force in April this year. A detailed programme of work is in place to ensure the implementation of the gender duty across the whole health sector. These include:

Developing and publishing a gender equality duty guide to assist NHS organisations to meet the duties of the gender duty legislation. This will be available at the end of January.

Publishing “Promoting Equality and Human Rights in the NHS—a Guide for Board Members”, which is aimed at helping non-executive board members take forward the issues of equality and human rights with regard to patients and the workforce. The guide outlines the legislative framework and the principles that underpin equality and human rights. It demonstrates the business case for promoting and delivering equality and human rights, and includes a set of prompts for boards to take stock of how fairly their organisations treat their patients and workforce. The guide incorporates current and imminent legislation and includes all board members. This guide is available on the Department’s website.

Working with inspectorate bodies and the Equal Opportunities Commission to ensure that gender equality issues are integrated into inspection arrangements and sector- specific guidance is provided to help the health sector promote gender equality;

organising a conference for the NHS in November 2006. This was aimed at creating and enhancing awareness of the meaning of gender and its relevance to health, increasing understanding of the general and specific duties of the gender duty and providing information and guidance on the implementation of the specific duties.

The Department’s equality and human rights group is leading a project aimed at supporting the equalities agenda through the development of single equality schemes (SES) in the NHS. The project has been set up in anticipation of possible further duties in relation to age, religion and belief and sexual orientation and plans to encourage work to pull together the different equality strands without compromising any of the individual elements in a cross-cutting and coherent fashion. Project leads provide support in terms of expertise in the field of equalities legislation, facilitating partnerships and joined- up working, research, sharing of good practice and producing guidance. Project leads also provide specific guidance on the gender and disability duties. The organisations involved are committed to producing a single equality scheme and will collectively produce learning that identifies the different steps required to meet both current and likely duties which will be meaningful to the host of diverse organisations within the NHS. Development and outcomes from all the programmes outlined above will be shared and disseminated throughout the NHS.

The pacesetters programme headed by the equality and human rights group is a programme that places equality including gender equality at the heart of NHS business, organisational objectives and core values, impacting upon future health planning, performance management and delivery. The Group is working with up to five strategic health authorities to deliver equality and diversity improvements and innovations resulting in:

patient and user involvement in the design and delivery of services;

reduced health inequalities for patients and service users; and

working environments that are fair and free of discrimination.

The participating SHAs launched their local involvement in the programme in November 2006.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what guidance has been issued to primary care trusts on ensuring services provided for the NHS by independent contractors comply with the requirements of the Equality Act 2006 gender duties. (116087)

The Department’s commercial directorate has negotiated with its contractors a requirement for all independent sector providers of services to operate in accordance with all applicable law including the Equality Act 2006.

The Department is currently developing a gender equality duty guide to assist national health service organisations meet the duties of the gender duty legislation. This guide outlines partnership working between NHS organisations, its partners and its contractors and the need to secure agreement from partners or contractors to give due regard to gender equality in relation to the work of the partnership to allow it to meet its statutory gender duty. This guide will be available at the end of January.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what guidance she has sent to providers of NHS sexual health services about meeting the requirements of the Equality Act 2006 gender duties. (116088)

The Department's programme to improve sexual health specifically targets the populations at risk of poor sexual health and this work fits closely with the equality agenda identified in the Act. In terms of gender and sexual health, women are particularly at risk of poor sexual health through unintended pregnancies and risk of infertility from undiagnosed sexually transmitted infections.

The Department is currently developing a gender equality duty guide to assist the national health service meet the duties of the gender duty legislation and it will be published at the end of January 2007. This guide will be available to all NHS organisations and will be accessible on the Department's website.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what advice she has sent to providers of NHS mental health services about meeting the requirements of the Equality Act 2006 gender duties. (116089)

The National Institute for Mental Health in England (NIMHE) is currently seeking to rationalise its workstreams in order to focus its efforts more effectively. Work is currently in progress to bring together the existing programmes on public mental health (including mental health promotion and suicide prevention), social inclusion and anti-stigma and discrimination into a single wellbeing and inclusion workstream.

The Department's guidance on ‘Promoting Equality and Human Rights in the NHS—a Guide for Board Members’ is aimed at helping non-executive board members take forward the issues of equality and human rights with regard to patients and the workforce. The guide outlines the legislative framework and the principles that underpin equality and human rights. It demonstrates the business case for promoting and delivering equality and human rights, and includes a set of prompts for boards to take stock of how fairly their organisations treat their patients and workforce. The guide incorporates current and imminent legislation and includes all board members. This guide is available on the Department's website.

The Department is currently developing a gender equality duty guide to assist the national health service meet the duties of the gender duty legislation and it will be published at the end of January 2007. This guide will be available to all NHS organisations and will be accessible on the Department's website.