The Commission for Racial Equality has accused NHS organisations of showing a 'lack of leadership' in promoting race equality.

The government's race monitor has warned that without improvement, they could face legal action.

The CRE released a statement to HSJ after NHS chief executive David Nicholson wrote to chief executives of all trusts in England highlighting the need for them to meet their legal duties, and to implement the recent operating framework and guide, Equality and Human Rights in the NHS: a guide for NHS boards, published in December. The CRE said the failure to implement race equality legislation in trusts might be partly explained by limited resources, but that 'we think the main issue is that there is a lack of leadership and recognition of the risks of not meeting the duty'.

Trusts' race equality schemes will be more closely scrutinised as a result of a more 'proactive' approach by the CRE, following evidence of non-compliance gathered by the Healthcare Commission.

The CRE has told the Department of Health that it will be tougher in exercising its enforcement powers against trusts which it believes are not complying with race relations legislation.

Last August the Healthcare Commission published a report indicating that many trusts had not made race-equality schemes, race-equality impact assessments and employment statistics relating to race equality easily available.

The commission said it was putting trusts on notice that they had to implement the legislation, and where action was not taken it would consider legal action with the CRE.