Call for New Supports for Equality in Health Provision

‘An Equality Driven Health Service: How to Get There’ is the title of a conference held today in the Alexander Hotel, Merrion Square, Dublin. It is jointly hosted by the Equality Authority and the Irish Medical Organisation.

The conference

  • Provided information on equality legislation and its implications for health service providers.
  • Examined the commitment to equality within the health sector and how best to ensure this commitment is reflected in practice.
  • Explored current good practice in equality issues within the health sector
  • Discussed an agenda for action that participants could implement in promoting equality and combating discrimination in their work in health provision.

Niall Crowley, CEO of the Equality Authority speaking at the conference highlighted that “an equality competent health service seeks to achieve equality in access to resources, to a valuing of diversity, to having a say in decision making and to relationships of respect for people across the nine grounds covered by the equality legislation. Health and health services are important resources and their distribution is a key focus in any ambition for equality. Health service providers are challenged to make adjustments to take account of difference and diversity. Health service providers need to establish mechanisms to ensure they can hear the voices of those who experience inequality. Finally equality must also focus attention on the quality of the interaction between health service providers and individuals from groups covered by the legislation”.

An equality competent health service provider is characterised by planned and systematic approaches to equality alongside an equality focus being embedded in systems of governance. This is reflected in a commitment to non discrimination, to making adjustments for the practical implications of diversity and to proactively pursuing equality objectives.

“Policy makers can assist the further development of equality competent health service providers by:

  • ensuring new health legislation establishes equality as an objective for the sector and sets in place mechanisms to secure progress on such an objective.
  • building an equality focus and an equality infrastructure within all new health sector institutions.
  • evolving equality legislation to support and require planned and systematic approaches to equality in employment and service provision through the development of public duties on the public sector to have due regard to equality in carrying out its functions.
  • putting in place resources and technical supports for health service providers to be equality competent” stated Niall Crowley in his address to the conference.

IMO President, Dr. James Reilly said; “Equality in the health service is a fundamental right for everyone. The positive relationship between poverty and ill health is well-documented. Available evidence suggests that those on low incomes or in poverty have relatively high mortality rates, higher levels of ill-health and fewer resources to adopt healthier lifestyles. This joint seminar is intended to bring about debate and information on inequalities in the Irish Health Service and look at current good practices”.

Other speakers included Dr. Rafik Gardee of the NHS, Scotland, Eilis Barry, B.L. Legal Advisor to the Equality Authority, Dr. Dermot Power of the Mater Hospital, Dr. Philip Crowley of the Irish College of General Practitioners and Dr. Catherine Hayes of the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland.


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