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Jane Bates: Madness of NHS plan to ask patients their gender preference

A directive from NHS England asking health professionals to record the sexual orientation of all patients and service users aged 16 and over is impractical and intrusive, says Jane Bates.

A directive from NHS England asking health professionals to record the sexual orientation of all patients and service users aged 16 and over is impractical and intrusive, says Jane Bates.

Imagine the scene. You are wheezing so loudly it sounds like someone is tuning bagpipes in your chest cavity, you are coughing and your GP looks so exhausted you are not sure which of you will cry first.

Then comes the question: tell me about your sexual orientation and gender preference . There is barely time to rasp mind your own business before your allotted ten nanoseconds with the doctor is over.

An exaggeration maybe, but only just. Expecting health professionals to ask all patients about their gender and sexuality is madness, surely. If it is relevant to their situation, then

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A directive from NHS England asking health professionals to record the sexual orientation of all patients and service users aged 16 and over is impractical and intrusive, says Jane Bates.


Picture: Alamy

Imagine the scene. You are wheezing so loudly it sounds like someone is tuning bagpipes in your chest cavity, you are coughing and your GP looks so exhausted you are not sure which of you will cry first.

Then comes the question: tell me about your sexual orientation and gender preference. There is barely time to rasp ‘mind your own business’ before your allotted ten nanoseconds with the doctor is over.

An exaggeration maybe, but only just. Expecting health professionals to ask all patients about their gender and sexuality is madness, surely. If it is relevant to their situation, then of course. If the patient wishes to discuss it, then of course.

A slightly sinister intrusion

But most of the time that won’t be the case. Is this diktat a head-in-the-sands disregard for the pressure most doctors and nurses are under? There are not enough of us to even deal with the basics sometimes – the capacity pot is running on empty, guys, surely you know that.

The inference is that this will to deter us from discriminating between patients, which seems an insult to our integrity. I’ve met many strange people working for the NHS, myself included, but mercifully bigots are rare.

As a patient myself, I find it over-intrusive and even slightly sinister that the powers that be want to quiz me about my private life. Who has access to this data? Information in the NHS has always been on a need to know basis, so why change now?


Jane Bates is an ophthalmic nurse in Hampshire 
 

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