England’s National Health Service (NHS) has told its staff to stop referring patients for so-called “conversion therapy,” which is intended to change a person’s sexuality.
According to the BBC, conversion therapy is not directly offered through the NHS, but there have been occasions in which GPs, counsellors and psychotherapists have referred clients to people offering these services.
NHS England, along with 14 other organisations, has now signed The Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy in the UK, to address the issue.
Noting that several professional bodies have found “there is no good evidence that it works, while there is evidence that it has the potential to cause harm,” the signatories expressed “a shared commitment to protecting the public from the risks of conversion therapy.”
The memorandum also states that NHS England “does not endorse or support conversion therapy” and will communicate this to its staff. The BBC says this means that “GPs will not be able to refer patients for gay therapy and that no-one employed by the NHS can provide it.”
The organisations further committed themselves to working to “ensure that the public are aware of the basis for concern about any ongoing practice of conversion therapy.”
The decision was welcomed by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who tweeted: “Thinking you can cure homosexuality is abhorrent and potentially harmful. Pleased to see this commitment.”
Major medical and mental health organisations around the world – including The South African Society of Psychiatrists – have denounced efforts to change sexual orientation or gender expression as ineffective and potentially harmful.
The Executive Director of the Telegraph Media Group, Lord Black, is spearheading a campaign to ban the practice outright in the UK. He told PinkNews that he applauded the move by the NHS.
“This is a massive step in the right direction and it should be warmly welcomed. But there is more to do. I will continue the campaign to have this insidious ‘treatment’ banned in the UK,” he said.
The US states of New Jersey and California and the city of Washington D.C. have banned gay and lesbian youth under the age of 18 from being subjected to conversion therapy.
In addition to the NHS, groups that signed the memorandum include: Association of Christian Counsellors; British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy; British Psychological Society, Royal College of Psychiatrists; National Counselling Society; and the UK Council for Psychotherapy.