Legislation Update: Equality Act

Equality Act

With effect from 1 October, age discrimination in the provision of goods and services will be unlawful. (Equality Act 2010 (Commencement No 9) Order 2012). This includes direct or indirect discrimination against a person because of age, by withholding a service or in respect of the terms on which a service is provided, the termination of the service or subjecting that person to any other detriment, or to provide a service in a different or an inferior way because of a person’s age.

Service providers may be able to defend allegations of age discrimination outside listed exceptions provided that they can justify the discriminatory treatment under sections 13 and 19 of the Act.

During the consultation phase, the provision of healthcare was discussed, and it was determined that exceptions for the NHS or healthcare providers to discriminate because of age would not be provided, and as a result, any decisions taken because of age or which place specific age groups at a particular disadvantage will have to be justified under sections 13 or 19 of the Equality Act 2010.

As the government acknowledged during the consultation process, evidence suggests that elderly patients can receive poor treatment, and difficult funding decisions will need to be made which may impact directly or indirectly on older patients. This is likely to be an area of significant litigation both for commissioners and providers.


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