UK | Doctors ordered to ask if patients are gay or lesbian

A move towards better health care or an invasion of privacy?

Doctors and nurses in England have been told to ask patients about their sexual orientation.

In a new policy document titled “Sexual Orientation Monitoring”, NHS England has ordered staff to “record sexual orientation at every face to face contact” with patients over the age of 16.

Patients will be able to choose whether or not to answer the questions about their sexuality.

The NHS (National Health Service) explained that by recording the sexual orientation of patients it will be better able to comply with equality regulations and to monitor any possible discrimination against LGB patients.

It added that, “collecting and analysing data on sexual orientation allows public sector bodies to better understand, respond to and improve LGB patients’ service access, outcomes and experience”.

The move was welcomed by LGBT rights group Stonewall. “It’s vital sexual orientation is considered in health assessments,” said a spokesperson. “It can help GPs and other staff identify and recognise the unique health issues lesbian, gay and bi people may face.”

The policy, which will only come into effect from April 2019, was, however, criticised by others. MP Philip Davies said: “It’s completely idiotic. The best way to treat people equally is to give them good medical care, not prying into their sex lives.

“Nobody cares what people’s sexual orientation is, they just want doctors to get on and treat people’s medical conditions. The NHS is stretched enough without everybody wasting time and money ticking irrelevant boxes like this,” he insisted.

The NHS argues that studies have shown that LGB people are more likely to suffer poorer mental health and are at higher risk of suicide, sexually transmitted infections and the use of drugs and alcohol.

Stonewall said the new policy will allow the NHS “to identify gaps in provision and areas for improvement, before targeting services to meet these needs”.

It further commented that it would also “like to see NHS England introduce similar gender identity monitoring for trans and non-binary patients where appropriate”.

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