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2007 Health Care Service Group Conference
20 December 2006

2007 marks a significant step forward for the equalities agenda, with a raft of legislation being introduced – we have already seen the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006, which have had a direct impact on staff. Equality issues are one area of work where we can work jointly in partnership with employers to establish best practise.

In 2006, the Healthcare Commission issued a press release putting the NHS on notice, indicating that the NHS was in breach of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 and that it needed to do more to meet its obligations. We must also face the real challenge of meeting the needs of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) service users in mental health and ensure that the recommendations of the David Bennett report are implemented in full.

We must also work to ensure that all providers of healthcare reflect the diversity of the local population in their workforce, their communication material and in providing a culturally sensitive service to meet the needs of their staff, patients and service users.

We must work with the NHS Appointments Commission to ensure that BME lay members and staff are reflected in all roles, across all aspects of healthcare and, within each of the regulators, particular attention needs to be paid to posts at senior management level.

On the 4th December 2006, we see the full implications of the Disability Discrimination Act coming into force. We need to be proactive at ensuring access to the service and enabling staff to continue to lead full, active working lives by the use of reasonable adjustments.

In April 2007, the Equalities Act and the Sexual Orientation Act will both come into force. For the first time, this will give a high priority to issues which UNISON has long campaigned for.

June 2007 will see the introduction of religious freedoms legislation. It is important to note the many different religions which exist in the UK and the comfort and support that they play in the lives of patients and staffs. This diversity is something that the NHS should celebrate. We must work to identify new ways of ensuring that their needs are recognised and where possible incorporated into normal practises in the NHS.

It is important to note it has been the Labour Party and UNISON which has campaigned to introduce these pieces of legislation and they are to be welcomed. However, as a public service, it’s vital that the NHS not only works to ensure it meets its obligations as an employer but also to look at and review the services it offers to patients, service users and carers. We must ensure consistent equitable practise across all areas of health care irrespective of where it is provided.

This conference calls on the SGE to: –

1.Arrange for national discussions with the NHS Employers to take place in order to develop best practise on implementation of the equalities legislation

2.Work with other service groups in developing guidelines for branches on the equalities duties

3.Seek national assurances from the Department of Health that the recording of all equalities information will be mandatory

4.Work in partnership with the national self organised groups to develop and share knowledge and expertise and where appropriate guidance on relevant issues

5.Press branches to ensure that equalities is an agenda item on all joint staff forums and seek regular reports from employers on equality data, raising through their region any concerns which arise from the information