Suffolk campaigners criticise new NHS plans to quiz patients on their sexuality

Patients may be quizzed on their sexuality. Picture: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos.

Patients may be quizzed on their sexuality. Picture: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos. - Credit: PA

News about NHS plans to quiz patients on their sexuality has been met with caution by people in Suffolk, with one campaigner branding the move “intrusive” and “offensive”.

Service users over the age of 16 visiting their GP or hospital may be asked to confirm whether they are straight, gay, bisexual or other from 2019, it has been revealed.

The fresh Government guidance apparently asks medical professionals to keep a record of the patient’s answer during face-to-face consultations.

Individual trusts can decide to opt out of the move, and patients will not be forced to answer.

The NHS says the step was to ensure those who do not identify as heterosexual are treated fairly, and it will not impact on the care they receive.

Richard Dighton, chairman of Suffolk LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] Network, said: “I think GPs asking people about their sexuality is going too far as not everyone is comfortable talking about this. It would be better for GPs to have posters up in waiting areas for services for LGBTQ people.”

Mr Dighton said patients uneasy about the question may simply lie about their sexuality to professionals.

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He added: “It will have no impact on the care people receive and I feel it would be potentially intrusive and offensive for GPs to monitor people’s sexuality.

“I don’t feel that someone’s sexuality is relevant unless of course if it was relevant to their medical condition. For example, if you were at a sexual health clinic, then you are likely to be asked, but certainly not those attending a clinic for any other unrelated reasons.”

A spokesperson the LGBT branch of Suffolk UNISON, the public service union, said: “Sexuality does not impact on anything other than who you fall in love with.”

Almost 80% of readers who responded to a poll on our website asking if they agreed with the initiative answered ‘no’.

One reader labelled the plans “outrageous”, while another said: “Surely as a patient regardless of sexuality everyone will be treated fairly”.

An NHS England spokesman said: “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.

“This information standard is designed to help NHS bodies be compliant with the law by consisting collecting, only where relevant, personal details of patients such as race, sex and sexual orientation.

“They do not have to do it in every area, people do not have to answer the questions and it will have no impact on the care they receive.”