LGBT campaigners call for NHS to ask if patients are transgender

The NHS Highland health board has apologised for the HIV data leak. File photo

Campaigners are calling for the NHS to record whether a patient is transgender.

A consultation on how to best collect the data of patients trans status is currently underway and due to report back at the end of 2017.

It comes after plans were announced to record patients’ sexual orientation as standard when seeing a doctor.

Newly released NHS guidelines have shown that from April 2019 health professionals will be told to ask patients about their sexuality if they are aged 16 or over.

The LGBT Foundation, who has been lobbying for recording of sexual orientation during a seven year campaign, is now calling for transgender status to also be recorded.

“Of course next on our agenda is trans status monitoring,” Paul Martin, chief executive of the foundation, said in an article welcoming the NHS plans.

The foundation is developing guidance, collating evidence and consulting on how the new rules should apply to transgender patients.

A briefing note circulated by the charity recommends that patients be asked by doctors and NHS staff what their gender identity is, according to The Times.

They recommend patients be given options including woman, trans woman, man, trans man, non-binary, or if they think of their gender identity in another way.

It proposes a separate question headed “trans status” under which patients would be asked whether their gender identity is the same as the gender they were given at birth.

Patients will already be asked, “Which of the following options best describes how you think of yourself?” with the available responses: ‘Heterosexual or Straight,’ ‘Gay or Lesbian,’ ‘Bisexual,’ and ‘Other.’

Patients will be allowed to decline to answer on sexual orientation, as well as under the trans status proposals, which the guideline says “is their right,” in which case their answer would be recorded as ‘not stated.’

There is also a response option for ‘don’t know.’

Related: NHS trial of HIV-preventing drugs for gay men begins

The guide applies to doctors and nurses, as well as local councils that are responsible adult social care.

It advises the question be asked at “every face to face contact with the patient, where no record of this data already exists.”

NHS England said its hope was that by recording the data it could “ensure that no patient is discriminated against,” as health bodies are required to under the Equality Act.

A spokeswoman said collecting the data would “have no impact on the care [people] receive,” other than helping to make sure patients are being treated equally.

Paul Martin, chief executive of Manchester’s LGBT Foundation, one of the organisations that worked with NHS England on this guide said it was “hugely important step in the right direction.”

NHS England said that, considering the way LGB+ people are disproportionately affected by health inequalities such as mental illness, this data would allow them to “better understand, respond to and improve LGB patients’ service access.”

Related: NHS Scotland faces accusations of being transphobic as it limits access to chest surgeries

A spokesperson from LGBT rights group Stonewall said: “It’s vital sexual orientation is considered in health assessments. It can help GPs and other staff identify and recognise the unique health issues lesbian, gay and bi people may face.

“We have been calling for sexual orientation to be considered as other protected characteristics for over a decade. 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 it will be able to identify gaps in provision and areas for improvement, before targeting services to meet these needs.

“Alongside monitoring, we would recommend introducing diversity and inclusion training for all staff and national campaigns run by NHS England to raise awareness of LGBT health inequalities.

“We’d also like to see NHS England introduce similar gender identity monitoring for trans and non-binary patients where appropriate.”

Dr Peter Swinyard, Chairman of the Family Doctor Association told the BBC that the question didn’t need to be asked if it was irrelevant.

He said that, particularly in cases with older patients, sexuality often “doesn’t affect health outcomes or care”.

He also told the Daily Mail he thought it was “confounded cheek,” to institute this question, with risks of GPs becoming “state apparatchiks.”