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CQC to assess equality issues arising from Covid under new human rights agreement

15 March 2021

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The CQC will consider equality and human rights policy issues that have arisen from the Covid-19 pandemic under an agreement with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

In a statement published last week on the new memorandum of understanding (MoU), the CQC and the EHRC confirmed they will work together on five ‘key areas of focus’.

These also include looking at how leadership can reduce inequalities in patients’ access to – and outcomes from care – in local areas, and ‘collaborating for better leadership on equality for staff working in the NHS and social care’, the regulator said.

In a separate blog on the agreement, Ted Baker, CQC’s chief inspector for hospitals, said: ‘We will continue to work together to respond to the equality and human rights issues that have arisen from the Covid-19 pandemic. This includes the EHRC contributing to our work on use of DNACPR and CQC supporting the dissemination of key findings relating to health and social care from EHRC key reports and briefings.’

The memorandum, which applies to all providers regulated by the CQC, also outlines how both organisations will share information on human rights issues.

Under the new agreement, the regulators will aim to take a joint approach to cases involving discrimination in access to care services, to make sure care providers adhere to human rights law.

The EHRC, which is the regulator responsible for enforcing the 2010 Equality Act, also said in a statement that it ‘will share any intelligence with the CQC where it may have concerns about the equality and human rights standards of health and social care providers’.

Mental Health Act reform

The other two key areas of focus are taking coordinated regulatory action when providers fail to meet equality requirements and protecting people who have been most at risk of human rights breaches for a long time.

This includes working together on reform of the Mental Health Act, CQC said, and addressing a recommendation of the 2018 review, which said that regulatory bodies like the CQC ‘should use their powers to support improvement in equality of access and outcomes’.

Professor Baker said in his blog: ‘To address this recommendation EHRC will be providing training to our Mental Health Act reviewers and inspectors on the Equality Act, public sector equality and the Human Rights Act, and we will continue to work collaboratively on policy issues relevant to the Independent Mental Health Act review and White Paper.’

Working together

Ian Trenholm, CQC’s chief executive, said: ‘This [MoU] agreement will ensure CQC and EHRC continue to work well together as we have been doing throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. The MoU sets out how we will share knowledge and expertise in a number of important areas including protecting people most at risk of having their human rights breached and addressing issues of equality in health and social care.’

The CQC said that the agreement does not override its statutory responsibilities, but that the two organisations are ‘are committed to working in ways that are consistent’ with the MoU.

The agreement will involve jointly commissioning research and reviews of research, and cooperating on advice, guidance and joint external communications, CQC added.