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Taking action about discrimination in health and care services

This advice applies to Wales

If you’ve experienced discrimination by a healthcare or care provider, there are different things you can do. For example, you can talk to the healthcare or care professional who discriminated against you or you can make a discrimination claim in court.

Read this page to find out more about what you can do if you’ve experienced discrimination by a healthcare or care provider.

What can you do if you’ve been discriminated against?

When deciding what action to take about discrimination, you’ll need to think about what you're trying to achieve. You will also need to think about how quickly you need to get a result.

You may want:

  • the discrimination against you to stop
  • an apology
  • the healthcare or care provider to look again at a decision they’ve already taken
  • a change in their policy
  • staff training in discrimination issues
  • money for financial losses or compensation - for example, for stress or injury to feelings.

It’s often best to try to resolve your problem informally first. It may stop the problem getting worse and avoid the expense of taking legal action. You should, however, be aware that there are strict time limits for taking legal action. It’s therefore best to act as early as possible.

Check whether discrimination has happened

The law which says you mustn’t be discriminated against is called the Equality Act 2010. If you want to take action about discrimination, you need to be reasonably sure that discrimination has taken place according to the law.

Remember that in some cases, you can do something about discrimination even if it didn’t happen directly to you. In some situations, you’ll need to explore the problem further before you can be reasonably sure that discrimination has happened.

If the treatment doesn’t count as discrimination under the law, you may still have been treated badly or unfairly and you may be able to do something about that. For example, you may still be able to make a complaint about your treatment.

Make a complaint

You can make an informal complaint first to the healthcare or care provider. This could be to the person who discriminated against you or the organisation who employs them.

If the problem isn't resolved informally, you can make a formal complaint. You can complain to the healthcare or care provider directly using their complaints procedure. After this you can take your complaint to other independent organisations like an ombudsman.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) includes things like mediation, conciliation or arbitration. This is where people on different sides of a dispute use an independent professional, called a mediator, conciliator or arbitrator, to help them find a solution to a problem. If you want to take legal action the courts will want to know if you have considered the use of ADR as court action should be a last resort.

You can contact the Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS) who can help you find a mediator or conciliator.

There are strict time limits for making a court claim. You need to make your claim within 6 months less one day of the discrimination taking place. You should make your claim in the civil courts.

If you’ve been discriminated against by a public authority, like the NHS or social services, you may also have other legal claims.

These are:

  • public sector equality duty claim
  • human rights claim
  • public law claim.

If you’re thinking about taking court action, you should get advice from an experienced adviser - for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau.

Reporting the healthcare or care provider to the Equality and Human Rights Commission

In some situations, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) may be able to help with your discrimination complaint. The EHRC won’t normally take on individual cases. However, they can take on an individual case if it would be of wider public interest and it's referred to them by an advice agency. They could also launch an official inquiry and formal investigation if the problem seems to be widespread.

How can you find information to help you support your claim or complaint?

You can ask for information about your treatment from the person you think has discriminated against you. It can help you understand why you were treated in a certain way. If you decide to make a complaint or go to court, you can use this information to support your discrimination claim or complaint.

Freedom of information request

You can make a Freedom of Information request to the organisation who discriminated against you if they’re a public authority like an NHS hospital, GP surgery or local authority care home. You can ask the organisation for any information you think the authority may hold. But some information may not be given to you because the law says it shouldn’t be given to the public.

Next steps

Other useful information

Mediation

  • For more about the questionnaire procedure see the guidance from GOV.UK, at www.gov.uk

Freedom of Information request

  • For information about how to make a Freedom of Information request ico.org.uk

Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS)

If you have experienced discrimination, you can get help from the EASS discrimination helpline.

Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)

You can find useful information about discrimination on the EHRC website at

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