Primary care trusts have an enormous amount of ground to make up if they are to be ready to meet their responsibilities under the new Equality Act, according to the initial results of a survey by the Men's Health Forum.
And even though they already have responsibilities to measure health outcomes by gender, few appear to be doing so, the survey revealed.
The Forum approached individual primary care trusts by email, asking them to respond to a survey on the Forum's website. In all, 86 primary care trusts (PCTs) — more than a quarter of all the trusts in England — replied.
Under the Equality Act, which becomes law in April 2007, all public bodies will be required to 'promote equality of opportunity between men and women'. This would, as the Equal Opportunities Commission has pointed out, mean ensuring, for example, men and women have equal access to GP services — something which is undermined by current surgery hours.
But many PCTs are failing to meet their existing responsibilities on gender, let alone what will be required of them next year. More than two-thirds of those responding failed to routinely break down data by gender for three major diseases — heart disease, cancer and diabetes. This is despite the fact that, under the existing healthcare standards framework, National Standards, Local Action, issued in 2004, primary care trusts must demonstrate that they have taken account of different needs and inequalities within the local population, including those relating to gender.
'The picture on preparedness for the new Equality Act is, not surprisingly at this stage, patchy,' said Peter Baker, Chief Executive of the Forum. 'Nonetheless it is worrying that, with only a year to go, ten trusts didn't even seem to be aware of this impending responsibility.
'But of more concern is the failure to address the existing requirements of National Standards, Local Action. How can a trust possibly say it is monitoring gender in health provision if it doesn't even collect data on some of the main disease groups broken down by gender?'
The trusts that are not analysing heath outcomes by gender said this was because the information could not easily be analysed by gender, because it was not demanded in the planning process, or because they didn't have the capacity to produce the data in this way.
Asked whether the PCT consciously took into account the differences in health needs, behaviours and attitudes between men and women when developing public health policy, fewer than a quarter of those responding to this question said they always did so (19 responses, 22.09% of those responding). A further 57 respondents said they did so 'often' or 'sometimes'.
When asked whether their PCT consciously seeks to ensure services are delivered in such a way that they are used by men and women in direct proportion to differences in needs, only 12 respondents (14.46% of those responding) said they always did so. The majority of responses (37) said they did so only 'sometimes'. Six said they rarely or never did so.
Although the overwhelming majority of PCTs (72 per cent) said they were fully aware of their existing obligation under National Standards, Local Action to improve gender equity, few had begun work on their new responsibilities under the new Equality Act, which comes into force in 2007.
Only 30 PCTs (38.96 %) responded that they had already begun work on this. A total of 36 were aware of this responsibility, but had yet to start work on it. Worryingly, ten were not even aware of this responsibility.
Page created on March 27th, 2006
Page updated on December 1st, 2009