The NHS Constitution for England, published in January 2009 states that the national health service should provide a comprehensive service, available to all irrespective of gender, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, religion or belief. At the same time, the NHS is reminded that it has a wider social duty to promote equality through the services it provides and to pay particular attention to groups or sections of society where improvements in health and life expectancy are not keeping pace with the rest of the population.
In conjunction with a range of stakeholders, the Department supports the NHS to mainstream gender equality in a variety of ways. In 2007 we published practical guidance on how NHS organisations should develop and use gender equality schemes, and integrate gender equality into mainstream business. In the same year, we co-published an equality guide to enhance NHS board members’ understanding of their legal duties under gender and other equality legislation. A copy of both publications has been placed in the Library. In March 2008, the chief executive of the NHS wrote to all strategic health authority chief executives, reminding them of their duties in relation to gender equality and other equality and human rights legislation, and encouraging them to be legally compliant and to support trusts in their areas to be compliant as well. We are currently running a ‘Learning Sites’ programme to support the development of single equality schemes, with a clear focus on gender and other specific equality issues. The Department’s Pacesetters programme is trialling a number of innovative approaches to improving the NHS’s equality performance. A number focus on gender equality.