UK: Gay rights activists welcome NHS questioning of patients over sexuality

Gay rights campaigners have backed an NHS policy demanding that doctors and nurses start asking all patients from the age of 16 about their sexual orientation.

NHS England has issued a new standard requiring staff to “record sexual orientation at every face to face contact with the patient, where no record of this data already exists”.

It argues that the data is needed to ensure it meets its obligations under the 2010 Equality Act and will help it better tackle health problems that are more prevalent among lesbian, gay and bisexual people. These include sexually transmitted diseases, mental health problems, alcohol and drug dependency and social isolation in old age.

Patients are not obliged to answer, but Conservative politicians including Jacob Rees-Mogg and the former children and families minister Tim Loughton have attacked the measure respectively as “intrusive and Orwellian” and “political correctness … gone bonkers”.

The policy does not include monitoring gender or gender identity, such as transgender. Instead, GPs, nurses and other health and adult social care staff are being told to ask: “Which of the following options best describes how you think of yourself?”

The options are heterosexual or straight, gay or lesbian, bisexual, other, and don’t know or not sure. Other can include asexual or “queer”, a term the NHS says defines “a complex set of sexual behaviours and desires, or to make a statement against categories such as lesbian, gay, bisexual or straight”. If patients decline to answer that will also be recorded.

The NHS wants all health and social care bodies to be asking the question by April 2019.

Stonewall, the gay rights campaign group, welcomed the new system and said it was “vital sexual orientation is considered in health assessments”. Read more via the Guardian

“We have been calling for sexual orientation to be considered as other protected characteristics for over a decade,” a spokeswoman said. “This move will also help health services gather evidence on and understand the needs of LGB people. This is something that NHS trusts are keen to implement as health services will be able to identify gaps in provision and areas for improvement, before targeting services to meet these needs.”