English health professionals will be required to ask patents s over the age of 16 about their sexuality under new NHS guidelines.
NHS England states that no one needs to answer the question, but recording the data will ensure “no patient is discriminated against”, the BBC reports.
Under the guidance, health professionals will asked patients: “Which of the following options best describes how you think of yourself?”.
The list of answers include heterosexual or straight, gay or lesbian, bisexual, other, not sure, not stated and not known.
NHS England said lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people were “disproportionately affected” by health inequalities such as poor mental health.
The guidance states that “collecting and analysing data on sexual orientation allows public sector bodies to better understand, respond to and improve LGB patients’ service access.”
The measure – which will come in from April 2019 – will apply to doctors and nurses, as well as local councils. It is hoped that the requirement will help to better tailor services for LGBT people, who may otherwise feel self-conscious about disclosing their sexuality without being asked.
A spokeswoman for NHS England said: “It will have no impact on the care [people] receive. All health bodies and local authorities with responsibility for adult social care are required under the Equality Act to ensure that no patient is discriminated against.”
However, the move has attracted criticism from some quarters, while the Family Doctor Association claiming it is “potentially intrusive and offensive” for professionals to question patients about their sexuality.
Meanwhile, NHS England has revealed that the data was already being collected throughout the country and the new guidelines will only make it standard.
Others were quick to slam the new guidelines on social media, with one user writing: “What has sexuality got to do with being treated on the #NHS? I won’t be telling anyone about me and will be offended if asked.”
— Gordon Lewis (@GordonLewis1961) October 15, 2017
Another user wrote: “A persons sexuality is nobody’s business @NHSEngland”.
— Olivia (@livneesham) October 15, 2017
One user wrote: “Does it change the medical treatment? No. Does it matter what sexuality? No. Stop this crap with no value to the NHS or patient.”
Does it change the medical treatment? No. Does it matter what sexuality? No. Stop this crap with no value to NHS or patient @NHSEngland
— David Scott (@bossman1610) October 16, 2017
However, others support the new guidelines. Paul Martin, chief executive of Manchester’s LGBT Foundation, said he was “so proud” of the new rules.
“If we’re not counted, we don’t count,” he said.