Key legislation

The Health and Social Care Act 2012 introduced the first legal duties about health inequalities. It included specific duties for health bodies including the Department of Health, Public Health England, Clinical Commissioning Groups, and NHS England which require the bodies to have due regard to reducing health inequalities between the people of England. The Act also brought in changes for local authorities on public health functions.

The Equality Act 2010 established equality duties for all public sector bodies which aim to integrate consideration of the advancement of equality into the day-to-day business of all bodies subject to the duty.

NHS England has produced a document for NHS commissioners on the duties covered by both of these Acts.

These pieces of legislation may be seen as complementary in setting a framework for the public sector to take action to reduce inequalities within England at local and national levels.

Supporting legislation

The Social Value Act 2012 requires public sector commissioners – including local authorities and health sector bodies – to consider economic, social and environmental wellbeing in procurement of services or contracts.

Creating social value has clear connections with efforts to reduce health inequalities through action on the social determinants of health – for example, by improving employment and housing.

Defining social value with reference to the social determinants of health can help to reduce local inequalities, improve the health and wellbeing of local people and in the longer term reduce the demand on health services and other services.