Healthcare watchdog to review race equality in NHS trusts

The Healthcare Commission is set to inspect over 40 NHS trusts to check on the actions they are taking to meet their legal duty to promote race equality for staff and patients of all ethnic groups.

The announcement comes as an audit, also published by the Commission today, suggests high numbers of trusts still need to do more to publish all the information they are required to under legislation on equality.

Despite improvements on the previous year, the results from the 2006/07 web audit, carried out in March/April 2007, suggest that, at that time, only 9%
(35 out of 394) of NHS trusts were publishing everything they are required to under the Race Relations Act 1976. Last year, just seven trusts appeared to be fully compliant.

Trusts must also adhere to regulations under the Disability Discrimination
(Amendment) Act 2005, requiring them to publish a disability equality scheme outlining how to promote disability equality. At the time of the audit, it appears that just under 82% of trusts were doing so.

A comparison of the findings is below:

| Web audit 2006                         | Web audit 2007                         |
| 1) 60% of trusts (341 out of 570) had  | 1) 77% of trusts (302 out of 394) had  |
| published a race equality scheme       | published a race equality scheme       |
| 2) 7% of trusts (37 out of 570) had    | 2) 34% of trusts (133 out of 394) had  |
| published workforce monitoring data    | published workforce monitoring data    |
| 3) 2% of trusts (9 out of 570) had     | 3) 16% of trusts (63 out of 394) had   |
| published outcomes of race equality    | published outcomes of race equality    |
| impact assessments                     | impact assessments                     |
| 4) Not applicable for the spring 2006  | 4) 82% of trusts (322 out of 394) had  |
| audit.                                 | published a disability equality scheme |
|                                        | on their website                       |

The Commission says the audit is not a definitive test of compliance, as only trust websites were examined. But, alongside these findings, the Commission announced a review of race equality in NHS trusts, which will include inspections at more than 40 trusts between December 2007 to February 2008. The review teams will consist of Healthcare Commission assessors, NHS staff and patient and public members.

The trusts selected will be assessed against the key standards that NHS organisations should be meeting with regard to eliminating discrimination and promoting equality for staff and their patient population. The standards also cover the provision of accessible information on the services trusts provide, eliminating barriers to accessing services and involving patients of all ethnic groups in the design, provision and delivery of their services.

Around 20 other trusts will be studied in order to identify best practice.

In addition to the inspections and studies, the Commission has also announced that, in the 2007/2008 assessment year, any trust not publishing the information required under race equality law, may be judged not to have met one of the Government’s core standards. This could, in turn, affect their annual performance ratings.

Jamie Rentoul, the Healthcare Commission’s Head of Strategy, said:

“With 1.4 million workers, the NHS is one of the biggest employers in the world – and almost 40 per cent of these are from black and minority ethnic groups. In the provision of services and in the recruitment, management and development of their workforce, healthcare organisations can therefore play a crucial role in eliminating discrimination and promoting equality.

“By inspecting trusts we will gain a better picture of the performance of the NHS in promoting race equality, as well as identifying good practice and highlighting areas of concern. The aim is to encourage trusts to eliminate discrimination and promote equality for staff, as well as promote equality of access and quality of services for all patients. The NHS needs to support the provision of services which are appropriate to individual needs, preferences and choices.”

Notes to editors:

The full web audit is available at:

The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 places a general duty on all NHS trusts to promote race equality. Trusts must have due regard to the need
·     eliminate unlawful racial discrimination
·     promote equality of opportunity
·     promote good race relations between people of different ethnic

In addition to the general duty, trusts must also comply with specific race equality duties. Among these are three publication duties set out in the Race Relations Act 1976 (Statutory Duties) Order 2001, which require trusts to have published:
·     a race equality scheme, setting out how the trust intends to meet its
obligations under the general and specific duties. The trust’s initial scheme should have been published by 31 May 2002, with a review to be carried out within three years
·     employment monitoring statistics by reference to ethnic group. The
trust should publish these statistics on an annual basis
·     the results of race equality impact assessments, detailing
consultations and monitoring for any adverse impact on the promotion of race equality.

The findings published today are part of a ‘web-based audit’ carried out across England’s 394 NHS trusts. Inspectors scanned each trust website for 30 minutes to see whether they are complying with the Race Relations
(Amendment) Act 1976 through publication of the above.

They also checked for evidence of a disability equality scheme, outlining how trusts intend to meet their general duties under the Disability Discrimination Amendment Act 2005. This includes promoting the equality of opportunity for disabled people and eliminating harassment and discrimination.

The findings are also passed on to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which has powers to warn and prosecute organisations that fail to meet their legal responsibilities.

In all there are 24 national core standards assessed in the Commission’s annual health check. Those relating to the race equality review include:

·     Standard C7e which requires trusts to ‘challenge discrimination,
promote equality and respect human rights’.
·     Standard C8b which requires trusts to support their staff through
organisational and development programmes which recognise the contribution and value of staff, and address, where appropriate, under-representation of minority groups
·     Standard C16 which requires trusts to make information available to
patients and the public on their services, provide patients with suitable and accessible information on the care and treatment they receive and, where appropriate, inform patients on what to expect during treatment, care and after-care.
·     Standard C17 which requires the views of patients, their carers and
others are sought and taken into account in designing, planning, delivering and improving health care services.
·     Standard C18 which requires trusts to enable all members of the
population to access services equally and offer choice in access to services and treatment equitably.

Information on the Healthcare Commission

The Healthcare Commission is the health watchdog in England. It keeps check on health services to ensure that they are meeting standards in a range of areas. The Commission also promotes improvements in the quality of healthcare and public health in England through independent, authoritative, patient-centred assessments of those who provide services.

Responsibility for inspection and investigation of NHS bodies and the independent sector in Wales rests with Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW).
The Healthcare Commission has certain statutory functions in Wales which include producing an annual report on the state of healthcare in England and Wales, national improvement reviews in England and Wales, and working with HIW to ensure that relevant cross-border issues are managed effectively.

The Healthcare Commission does not cover Scotland as it has its own body, NHS Quality Improvement Scotland. The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) undertakes regular reviews of the quality of services in Northern Ireland.

For further information:
      Media can contact the press office, 0207 448 9439, or 07779 990845
      after hours
      Members of the public can contact the helpline on 0845 6013012

Healthcare Republic does not have an editorial influence or input in to these press releases. The views expressed within these documents are not endorsed by Healthcare Republic or Haymarket Medical Publications Limited.

Enquiries should be directed to any contacts listed within the press releases.

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