Health professionals in England are to be told to ask patients aged 16 or over about their sexual orientation
NHS England chiefs face a rebellion from doctors and nurses over new guidelines that say every patient over the age of 16 must be asked to declare their sexual orientation.
Healthcare professionals will refuse to quiz patients over whether or not they are gay despite proposals outlined by NHS England, the chairman of the College of Medicine has warned.
NHS England says that it needs to record patients sexual orientation to fulfill legal duties under the Equality Act and that people are not obliged to answer, according to The Daily Telegraph.
But Dr Michael Dixon, who as chair of the College of Medicine represents a body championing “integrated” approaches to healthcare, said: “I think there will be some GPs that will say they simply don’t feel it’s part of their business to ask this question, and I’m sure there will be plenty that won’t.
“I just think there’s a problem because there’s a time and a place. At some times it might be appropriate to ask such a question, and other times it’s entirely inappropriate.
“It might threaten a relationship between GPs and their patients. It’s a bit like saying to your doctor, ‘I have a sore throat’, and they ask to check your feet.”
However, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, insisted the information could be helpful to GPs as a “patient’s sexuality can potentially have an impact on some aspects of their healthcare”.
She added: “We can take it into account when making a diagnosis or recommending treatments – but it should always be a patient’s choice whether they disclose this information.”
A good practice guide for healthcare professionals produced by the LGBT Foundation – which has worked with NHS England to develop sexual orientation monitoring – to go with the new guidelines “seeks to reassure them that they will encounter overwhelming public support”, says The Times.
However, it cautions, “it would not be appropriate to ask someone’s sexual orientation out loud in a busy reception area”. The guide maintains that it is “not a subject to be embarrassed about”, but concedes that “some people will feel uncomfortable asking or being asked”.