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Football clinics one option for GPs to comply with gender equality laws

GPs to tackle sex bias

New gender equality laws coming into force next year could compel GPs to review their surgery hours and health promotional activities.

GPs may even be asked to conduct clinics at football grounds in order to improve take-up of services by men.

The Gender Equality Act, which takes effect in April 2007, places a duty on public bodies to ensure their services are not biased against men or women.

PCTs will take overall responsibility for fulfilling the act. They will be required to draft policy on how they will take

account of the different needs of men and women in services they commission from GPs and other providers.

Trusts that do not comply will be issued with formal compliance notices and could be taken to court.

But draft guidance on the act from the Equal Opportunities Commission also states that 'GPs, when providing services under contract to a PCT, will be subject to the duty'.

A spokesperson for the Equal Opportunities Commission, which has published a draft code of practice on the gender equality duty, said there was no proscribed list of what GPs would or would not have to do and PCTs would have to draft their own policies.

This was likely to include creative ways of reaching men because they consulted their GP less frequently, he added.

Examples cited by the commission included offering longer opening hours or holding surgeries in places more men frequented, such as football grounds and pubs.

Dr Ian Banks, president of the Men's Health Forum, said GPs would have to show they were doing equal health

promotion for men, but may also have to consider how they

diagnosed and treated women with cardiovascular disease.

'There are a number of differences in the way women suffer from an MI,' he said. 'They don't often get the crushing chest pain men get, which is one reason why women tend to be poorly diagnosed.'

Dr Sam Everington, co-chair of the BMA Equal Opportunities Committee, said there were 'a whole lot of ifs and buts' surrounding the act.

He said: 'If you were offering general health screening to women and not men you could argue it discriminated against men, unless it was about contraceptive pills or cervical smears.'

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