Three trusts face legal action for breaching the Race Relations Act unless they take prompt steps to address racial inequality, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has warned.

Frimley Park Hospital Foundation Trust, Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership Trust, and NHS Surrey have been issued with compliance notices for failing to put in place compliant race equality schemes setting out how they will meet the act’s race equality duty.

They have failed to carry out equality impact assessments on policies and NHS Surry and Kent and Medway Trust must improve employment monitoring in accordance with the act.

All three trusts are performance managed by NHS South East Coast. Its chief executive Candy Morris said: “We are fully committed to leading the region to full compliance with all equality duties, and will continue to work in partnership with the commission and with all organisations across the region.”

Last year an analysis of recruitment, bullying, grievance and disciplinary rates at NHS organisations in the region by the South East Coast BME Network, shared exclusively with HSJ, revealed widespread disadvantages faced by black and minority ethnic NHS staff in the region. The findings were seen by managers as broadly representative of other parts of the country.

Vivienne Lyfar-Cissé, chair of South East Coast BME Network said: “We would like to commend the EHRC on taking action. We hope that this will send a strong message across the NHS that failure to comply with the race equality duty will no longer be tolerated.”

Kent and Medway Trust social care and partnerships director James Sinclair acknowledged “real weaknesses” had been identified.

He said the trust has now appointed a new head of equality and diversity and “improved all of its practices” in this area. Its single equality scheme, to be ratified next week, will ensure the trust is fully compliant, he added.

A spokesperson for the Frimley Park Hospital Foundation Trust said it had been “working hard” to develop a single equality scheme including race, disability and sexuality.

NHS Surrey director of resources and organisational developmentumanResources and OrganisatHUma Vanessa Birchall-Scott said the primary care trust had made “significant progress” but recognised there were “areas for further improvement” in its workforce data.