Labour MP: Ministers are ignoring the problem of gay conversion therapy

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The government has once again ruled out the statutory regulation of psychotherapists in order to guard against gay-to-straight conversion therapy, leading to criticism from Labour’s Diana Johnson.

Earlier this week, a cross-party group of 15 MPs sent a joint letter to Health Minister Norman Lamb.

The letter, initiated by Shadow Home Office Minister Diana Johnson, urged ministers to investigate potential NHS links with conversion therapists and explore the regulation of counselling and psychotherapy.

Campaigners warn at present there is no legal requirement preventing psychotherapists who believe it’s possible to ‘cure’ a person’s sexual orientation from being able to operate.

Ms Johnson wants the NHS only to use therapists who are signed up to professional bodies opposed to ‘conversion’ therapies.

The MP sent Freedom of Information requests to 212 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) – in England and Wales, asking if they could guarantee they only used therapists who were accredited by anti-conversion professional bodies, such as the British Association of Counsellors and Psychotherapists (BACP).

Of the replies, 18 CCGs did use unaccredited therapists – including NHS Cumbria CCG, NHS Ealing CCG and NHS Wirral CCG.

In response to the letter, the Department of Health reaffirmed that it had no intention of introducing statutory regulation for psychotherapists.

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “NHS funded therapies are provided for those who need them to help them manage a psychological problem.

“This could include people coming to terms with their sexuality. This is absolutely not the same as gay-to-straight “conversion” therapy, which we strongly oppose.

“Being gay is not an illness and it should never be treated as something which is curable, which is why we are proactively exploring ways of ensuring that ‘conversion’ therapy can never be funded by public money.”

Labour MP Diana Johnson accused Mr Lamb of “completely” ignoring the issues.

“The government just doesn’t get it,” The Express reports she said. “This is not just an issue of wasting taxpayers’ money to fund discredited conversion therapists through the NHS.

“The broader problem is that many doctors and therapists haven’t received the proper training on what to do if a gay person approaches them about their sexuality, and may end up informally referring them to people who will try to ‘change’ their sexuality.

“Dealing with this means measures such as training doctors and therapists properly and ensuring that the NHS only commissions therapists who are part of good professional bodies that have nothing to do with conversion therapy.

“Yet the Minister completely ignores these issues in his statement.”