Nineteen NHS trusts are being threatened with court action by the Disability Rights Commission for failing to produce evidence that they do not discriminate against disabled patients or staff.

The disability equality duty came into force last December and requires all public bodies to actively look at ways of ensuring that disabled people are treated equally in access to services and employment opportunities.

All trusts, local authorities and public bodies must also have produced a disability equality scheme to correspond with the launch of the duty. But despite warning letters from DRC chair Sir Bert
Massie, 66 organisations - including 19 NHS trusts, 12 local authorities and others including Channel 4, the Forensic Science Service and English Nature - still have 'not provided any evidence that the required scheme is in place'. Now all 66 offenders have been 'named and shamed' on the DRC website.

NHS offenders numbered five primary care trusts, three foundation trusts, four acute trusts, two ambulance trusts, two strategic health authorities and one mental health and social care trust. These include: London strategic health authority, University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire trust, Salford Royal foundation trust, Thames and Glossop PCT and Bexley Care trust. The NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement and special health authority NHS Professionals are also named.

Releasing the names this week, Sir Bert said: 'We will now be considering issuing compliance notices to offending authorities, which could lead to court action.'

If the case goes to court, a trust could be fined and compelled to comply with the duty. While the revelation may be embarrassing for the trusts, the overall response
from the public sector has been more impressive. The naming and shaming exercise follows an audit carried out by Ipsos MORI for the government's Office for Disability Issues.

Some 1,752 organisations were contacted in December to check whether disability equality schemes had been published. A follow-up check by the DRC revealed 66, or 3.8 per cent, still do not have a scheme.

Sir Bert added: 'I'm really pleased that the public sector as a whole has done a great job in responding to the requirements of the duty, with more than 96 per cent of organisations producing a scheme. The question is: Why have a small minority failed to do so?'