Research for the Department for Health exploring the views of people with the nine protected equalities characteristics on local services


In May 2012 the Department of Health commissioned OPM and Forster Communications to review various factors important to the people with one or more of the nine protected equality groups (age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex, and sexual orientation) about their local health services.

Our report explored ‘what matters’ to these groups about their local health services, filling in gaps in the evidence base, informing future approaches to measuring what matters and communicating the findings to a wide range of stakeholders involved in the changing health system. The Department for Health was particularly interested in what matters to people with clusters of these characteristics (known as ‘intersectionality’) to ensure a continued focus on creating health services that are personal, fair and diverse.

What we did

Our research outputs were designed to inform future policy and development for protected groups within the new NHS architecture and helped to strengthen and support the equality delivery system in its cycle of continual improvement. They included:

  • Conducting a focused literature review led by Alan Gomersall, a recognised expert in literature search and synthesis based at the Centre for Evidence-Based Policy and Practice (CEBPP);
  • A new primary insight study involving eight focus groups with four of the protected characteristics, this included older people and also expectant mothers from specific BME communities, people with specific religious beliefs and transgender people; and
  • A set of eight, in-depth, filmed interviews capturing individual perspectives of participants from the focus groups.


Our work identified access to care, respect for individual values, preferences and needs, and, communication as the key factors that mattered most to people about their local health services.

The findings of our report informed the work of the Personal, Fair and Diverse Council, which provides strategic leadership for the equalities agenda and supports the NHS to deliver better outcomes for patients and comply with the Equality Act 2010. The findings were also targeted at the recently formed Healthwatch that play a vital role in championing patients and communities across health and social care.  Additionally, the research shed light on how patient experience should be captured and measured in future to ensure that it focuses on what really matters to patients and the public.