Creating a fairer Britain
The Equality Act came into force on 1 October 2010. Some of the information on this page may be out of date.
In this section, you can find out about your legal rights in health and social care and relevant situations when discrimination may occur. You can find out about what the law defines as discrimination and the limited circumstances in which discrimination may be lawful.
We have published draft guidance for inspectors and assessors of health and social care providers on equality and human rights for public consultation. Find out more about the guidance and how you can take part in the consultation.
Most of us need to visit a doctor or dentist from time to time, and may need hospital treatment on occasion. Some of us rely on public health services for help with long-term health conditions or disabilities. Social care services, which are provided by public authorities as well as the independent sector, come in many forms. These include providing support for people with mental health problems, supporting elderly and disabled people in their homes, care in day centres, residential and nursing homes, and caring for children who can’t live with their parents.In most cases, whenever you need healthcare, medical treatment or social care, you have the right not to be discriminated against because of your race, gender, gender identity, disability, religion or belief or sexual orientation.
At the moment, it is unlawful to discriminate in employment on grounds of age. There is, however, no statutory prohibition of age discrimination in providing health or social care.
You also have various rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (enacted through the Human Rights Act 1998 in the UK), which are relevant to health and social care. These include the right to life, the right not to be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the right to liberty and security of person, and the right to respect for private and family life.
While certain human rights are absolute, most are subject to some degree of limitation. This means that interference with an individual’s human rights may be lawful in some circumstances, such as to protect the rights of others.
In this section you can find out about:
This section does not cover the employment rights of people working in the health and social care sector. Find out about your rights at work.