A government campaign to reduce red tape gives the “damaging” impression that the Equalities Act is to be scrapped, NHS Employers director Dean Royles has warned.

A letter seen by HSJ from Mr Royles to director-general and accounting officer of the government equalities office Jonathan Rees says the wording on the Red Tape Challenge website is “misleading” and “potentially damaging” to equalities work.

The website was set up earlier this month to reduce the burden of regulation on industry.

Mr Royles’ letter, sent on Monday, states that: “A number of people have observed that, whilst the other sections on the website are focused on regulations, the equalities section seems to give the impression that the Equality Act per se is potentially at risk of repeal. 

“We know that you and your colleagues are committed to the Act and the protection it offers to groups in our society and I am sure that this is not the intention of the Red Tape Challenge.

“However, the fact that the wording appears misleading and (at a time when the specific duties are under review) is potentially damaging to all of our efforts to embed and support this legislation.”

Amending the website would “help allay any fears within the service and the broader public sector,” it says.

The website asks for feedback on whether the Equalities Act should be scrapped altogether, merged with other regulations, simplified or left as they are.

There are already more than 3,000 online responses, many of which express dismay and anger at the possible changes.

A Department for Business, Innovation and Skills spokesman said: “The Act isn’t up for possible repeal. The government is fully commited to the equality agenda but what we want to try to achieve is getting people who deal with these regulations on a daily basis to go onto the website and give us advice about the ways that we can reduce the burden regulations place on business.

“The general premise of the campaign is one of deregulation. But that doesn’t necessarily mean a repeal. We encourage people to go ot the website and make suggestions about how we can improve the enforcement and implementation of the regulation so that people still get the same protection they’re used to but at the same time the implementation of that regulation is done in a way that reduces the burden on business.”