Corporate report

Meeting the public sector equality duty in 2016

Published 31 January 2017

The Department of Health is committed to understanding the effect of its decisions on different people and take account of equity in carrying out its day-to-day work. In accordance with our legal duties under the Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) Regulations 2011, we are publishing the information on this page to demonstrate our compliance with the public sector equality duty (PSED) in 2016.

As in previous years, information relating our employees is published separately on the Equality and Diversity pages of the department’s website.

Statutory equality duties

The public sector equality duty in section 149 of the Equality Act 2010 is an important lever for ensuring that public bodies take account of equality when conducting their day-to-day work. In making decisions, DH, along with other central government departments, must have due regard to the need to:

  • eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under the Act
  • advance equality of opportunity between people who share a relevant protected characteristic and people who do not share it
  • foster good relations between people who share a relevant protected characteristic and those who do not share it

The protected characteristics covered by PSED are age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, and marriage and civil partnership (only in respect of eliminating unlawful discrimination).

In line with the 2011 regulations, we must annually publish information relating to:

  • people who are affected by our policies and practices who share protected characteristics
  • our employees who share protected characteristics

Current assurance arrangements

The responsibility for meeting the requirements of equality and human rights legislation in policy and decision-making lies with each team in the department. They are supported by a legislation, equalities & human rights adviser who is responsible for raising awareness and capability among staff thorough a policy certificate training module and signposting to authoritative guidance. Information about meeting equality duties and further detailed guidance is available on the intranet to all staff.

When working on policy, our officials are expected to look at the impact each option might have on people sharing the 9 protected characteristics. They also consider the need to avoid or mitigate against any negative impact on any group.

Ministers are advised of the impact the proposed options may have on various groups of people, and this is taken into account when a policy decision is made. The standard ministerial submissions template that DH officials use specifically asks for equality considerations to be set out for decision-makers.

We seek input from external stakeholders to gain a broader insight into our decisions, and share information about projects with major equality considerations with the DH Strategic Partners’ Equalities Subgroup.

Directors general are required to consider compliance with the public sector equality duty and our human rights obligations as part of the quarterly core accountability reviews, to which all senior civil servants contribute.

Regular meetings with the Equality and Human Rights Commission are held to discuss respective priorities and the department’s performance in meeting its statutory equality duties.

In addition, tackling health inequalities remains a government priority, as part of a wider focus on fairness and social justice. The first ever legal duties were introduced in 2013 to ensure the health and public health system have regard to the need to reduce health inequalities, including in access to and outcomes from services.

The Secretary of State’s most recent assessment of performance in meeting this duty can be found in the department’s annual report and accounts.

Case study: community pharmacy

On 20 October 2016, the government announced a set of reforms to community pharmacy to improve the service offered to the public, make better use of pharmacists’ clinical skills, and allocate taxpayers’ money more efficiently.

These reforms were considered against the public sector equality duty, the family test and the relevant duties of the Secretary of State for Health under the National Health Service Act 2006. Our assessments included consideration of the potential impacts on the adequate provision of NHS pharmaceutical services, including the supply of medicines, access to NHS pharmaceutical services, opening hours and non-commissioned services such as other NHS services. We also considered the impacts on individuals with protected characteristics or restricted mobility, and the need to reduce health inequalities and ensure proper access to healthcare for deprived communities.

The reform package is designed to mitigate any potential adverse consequences on levels of access, quality or choice of services for patients and the public. We have been conscious to ensure that such impacts do not have a greater detrimental effect on people with protected characteristics, as these people might be expected to rely to a greater extent on pharmaceutical services – particularly the elderly and the disabled - than on those who do not share their protected characteristics.

A pharmacy access scheme (PhAS) has been introduced to protect those pharmacies where patient and public access would be materially affected should they close, including for those patients and members of the public with protected characteristics. Under the PhAS any small or medium-sized pharmacy which is more than a mile away from another pharmacy is entitled to an additional payment, meaning those pharmacies will be protected from the full effect of the reduction in funding. There is also a review mechanism to deal with any inaccuracies in the calculations, or any unforeseen circumstances affecting access; like a road closure. Cases will also be reviewed where there may be a high level of deprivation, and pharmacies are slightly less than a mile from another pharmacy, but critical to access.

Equality analyses published in 2016

We are committed to going beyond our obligations in cases where we believe it will enhance our performance. That’s why we continue to publish equality analyses for some of our major decisions. Analyses that were published since last year’s update are as follows:

Equality objectives

Under the 2011 regulations, we are also required to publish one or more equality objectives every 4 years. Our current set of objectives, published in January 2015, is as follows:

  • we will ensure that the public sector equality duty is embedded in directorate business plans, reflected in our corporate priorities and is an integral part of any future priority setting for our organisation
  • we will continue build and develop our relationships with stakeholders and the public, including those that represent groups with protected characteristics, to improve our functions and services
  • we will ensure that it is clear, throughout the policy development process, how we have paid due regard to the public sector equality duty
  • as stewards of the health and social care system, we will build on our strengths in knowledge and intelligence by improving the information we hold and collect. We will reflect back this intelligence to our partners, in order to improve the health and wellbeing of the whole population
  • we will seek to improve accessibility and ease of understanding of any information and policies we produce. We will seek to improve the accessibility of the information that we provide to the public and stakeholders
  • we will improve our internal business processes so that equality and diversity is an integral part of everything we do. Our drive to increase value, efficiency and productivity will always consider the needs of people with protected characteristics, internally in DH and in our externally facing functions
  • we will ensure we have a motivated, diverse and engaged workforce who:
    • live our behaviours of respect for each other
    • experience equality in the workplace regardless of their position in the organisation

Requesting further information

We are committed to being transparent about how we respond to our statutory equality duties. If you would like to find out more about how the department met its equality duties, please make a request using the contact form at https://contactus.dh.gov.uk/, or get in touch with us at:

Ministerial Correspondence and Public Enquiries Unit
Department of Health
Richmond House
79 Whitehall
London SW1A 2NS
Telephone: 020 7210 4850
Fax: 0115 902 3202
Textphone: 0207 451 7965