Equality and diversity

Equality and diversity

Everyone has a right to share their opinions and experiences to help shape health and care services.

When you are engaging with people, you need to reach out and involve those who may not usually be involved or may find it difficult to speak up. At the very beginning of your planning process, consider the Equality Act 2010 and Human Rights Act 1998. Carry out an equality impact assessment (EQIA) and consider health inequalities to ensure you reach a diverse group of people.

We have an important role to play in supporting and encouraging people from all sections of society to get involved as active partners in their own care or through engagement in wider discussions about health and care services.

Carry out an EQIA

Nobody should be treated unfairly because of their age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation or any other status. These are known as protected characteristics.

Discrimination is usually unintended and can often remain undetected, until someone highlights a bad experience. Undertaking an Equality Impact Assessment can help to identify potential disadvantages and offer an opportunity to take appropriate actions to remove or minimise any adverse impact.

People who face the biggest barriers to realising their rights should be prioritised when it comes to taking action.

Your own organisation will have its own equality impact assessment process which you should follow.

Other impact assessments

The Health and Social Care Standards were rolled out across Scotland in April 2018. These human rights-based standards set out what people should expect when using health, social care or social work services in Scotland.  They seek to provide better outcomes for everyone; to ensure that everyone is treated with respect and dignity, and that the basic human rights we are all entitled to be upheld.

The Fairer Scotland Duty also came into force in April 2018. This Duty requires public bodies to reduce inequalities of outcome caused by socioeconomic disadvantage.

To fulfil their obligations under the Duty, public bodies must evidence how they actively consider the reduction in inequalities of outcome in any major strategic decision they make.

The significant and long-standing inequalities that exist in Scotland has resulted in disparities in health outcomes between the most and least advantaged people. These disparities are often referred to as health inequalities.

Health inequalities are most commonly associated with socioeconomic inequalities but can also result from a wide range of other factors. These include:

  • reasons relating to a person's protected characteristics
  • access to education
  • access to employment
  • access to adequate housing and the location in which a person lives
  • individuals' circumstances and behaviors, such as their diet, alcohol consumption, drug use, smoking and exercise

Healthcare Improvement Scotland's Making Care Better strategy sets out our aim to help provide better quality health and social care for everyone in Scotland. To achieve this aim, and meet our duties under the Fairer Scotland Duty, we must ensure that all of our work considers the experiences of everyone living in Scotland.

Tackling health inequalities

Playing our part to help tackle health inequalities is key to us making care better for everyone. 

Our intention is always to support improvements in health and care. However if we do not consider the distinct needs and experiences of the most disadvantaged groups of people, we can unintentionally create or perpetuate existing health inequalities.

In order to deliver our intended positive outcomes, we must continually consider and assess how our work is received by, understood by, and benefits the diverse Scottish population.

Taking a human rights-based approach

Adopting a human rights-based approach is one way to help us tackle health inequalities caused by unfair and avoidable reasons. A human rights-based approach can provide an overarching framework of common values, that are used by health and social care organisations across Scotland, and are now underpinned by the Health and Social Care Standards.

Taking a human rights-based approach is about:

  • improving outcomes for patients, service users and staff by taking a person-centred approach
  • making people's rights integral to our work and treating them as individuals, fairly, with respect and dignity
  • advancing equality and eliminating discrimination
  • engaging with people and empowering them to know and claim their rights
  • giving people greater opportunities to participate in shaping the decisions that impact on them
  • ensuring the standards and the principles of human rights are integrated into our work
  • improving our accountability to respect, protect and fulfil people's human rights

Who do you need to involve?

Once you have considered these assessments, you should have a good understanding of who to involve in any engagement process. Before embarking on the next steps, read How to engage.

You can also contact your nearest engagement office or get in touch.

Last Updated: 9 June 2022