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Equalities watchdog threatens legal action against health bodies over discrimination

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has issued legal letters to 13 clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) warning them they face action over breaches of discrimination legislation.

These followed an initial warning that highlighted concerns about their NHS continuing healthcare policies being unlawful and breaching the human rights of patients by having arbitrary caps on funding and failing to consider the specific needs of individual patients, such as where they live and their family life.

NHS continuing healthcare funds care outside of hospitals, in care or nursing homes, hospices or the patient’s own home.

It said the CCGs concerned would be taken to court if they failed to either demonstrate that their policies were lawful, or take steps to review them.

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The commission said the policies in question represented a serious breach of the Human Rights Act, the public sector equality duty and the Department of Health and Social Care’s own continuing healthcare framework.

Commission chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath said: “It is utterly unacceptable that anyone should be forced into residential care when they are healthy enough to live independently and with their families. And it doesn’t make sense for individuals or communities.”

She added: “This is another example of individuals being disabled by society, and prevented from living as full and independent lives as possible, as is their right. We will use our powers to ensure that the NHS thinks about this again.”

The commission originally wrote to 43 CCGs asking for more information on their approach, and it decided the 13 had not considered their human rights and equality responsibilities in the way they operate their policies.

The affected CCGs are:

  1. Brent
  2. Coventry and Rugby
  3. Dudley
  4. East and North Hertfordshire
  5. Eastern Cheshire
  6. Harrow
  7. Hillingdon
  8. South Cheshire
  9. Vale Royal
  10. West Cheshire
  11. Warwickshire North
  12. Lincolnshire West
  13. Redditch and Bromsgrove

Mark Smulian

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