Primary care trusts are not taking sufficient account of gender when they plan services to meet new laws, a report commissioned by the Department of Health has found.

A survey of more than half of PCTs by the Men's Health Forum found few authorities 'were able to state with confidence that they consistently account for gender differences when formulating policy and/or designing services'.

Only 22 per cent always took into account the difference in needs and only 14 per cent always ensured services were delivered so they were used by men and women in direct proportion to their needs.

But this is precisely what PCTs are expected to do under the Equality Act 2006, which came into force in April. 'The national survey suggests PCTs have not, by any means, been as sensitive to this issue in the past as the new legislation intends they should,' the report says.

It said the act is vital because men are less likely to seek help.

The report shows PCTs had failed to use the data split between males and females and gender-conscious PCTs had expressed concerns about colleagues nationwide.

'They wonder whether the commitment will be there - and indeed whether the issue is even regarded within their peer group as one that matters,' the report says.

'Hard work will be necessary to ensure this issue is taken seriously.'

The situation could be worse than the survey found, as the 89 PCTs that responded were more likely to have an interest in gender equality issues, the report says.

It recommends the DoH: splits national and local data and public information by gender; appoints gender leads to strategic health authorities; trains managers; provides web resources for staff; and establishes a gender advisory group.