Equality legislation diluted by new bill

UK health equality legislation risks being 'watered down', according to GPs at the Men's Health Forum.

The forum warns that the government consultation document A Framework for Fairness: Proposals for a Single Equality Bill for Great Britain seeks to weaken the Equality Act 2006 that requires organisations to treat men and women equally.

Since 6 April 2007, NHS organisations have been required to actively promote men's health and publish gender equality schemes.

Dr Ian Banks, a GP and president of the Men's Health Forum, said: 'The new legislation has all the signs of being completely watered down. It was actually a law - you had to show that your service produced an equal outcome for men and for women. The language they use now gives primary care organisations an excuse not to do anything. There is a danger this will undermine all that has been achieved in promoting men's health.

'Men visit GPs half as often as women and male cancer patients have a life expectancy of 10 years less than women. There is also still no screening for men at all,' said Dr Banks.

David Wilkins, policy officer at the Men's Health Forum, said: 'The problem of poor male health is a problem that has been staring health policy-makers and service providers in the face for decades. We are opposed to anything that dilutes the present specific duties to publish gender equality schemes and conduct gender impact assessments.'

The Men's Health Forum recommends that the wording of the document be changed so that public authorities are required actively to promote equality between women and men, rather than 'pay due regard' to the need to do so.

In February GP reported how doctors could face legal action if they failed to treat men and women equally, from April 6, when the Equality Act 2006 came into force. If a patient believes a practice is providing unequal health services they could apply for a judicial review.

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