Patients in England will soon be asked about their sexuality, under new NHS guidelines.
Due to be implemented across the country by April 2019, the new procedure aims to help ensure lesbian, gay and bisexual people aren’t wrongly discriminated against.
Doctors, nurses and other health professionals will ask patients over the age of 16 about their sexual orientation during “every face-to-face contact with the patient, where no record of this data already exists,” according to a new standard issued by the NHS.
But NHS England has said that no one will be forced to answer the question, and if declined, it will be recorded so the question doesn’t arise again.
“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,” an NHS England spokesperson told The Guardian.
“This information standard is designed to help NHS bodies be compliant with the law by consistently 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.”
The new guideline has been seen as a positive procedure, according to LGBT charity Stonewall.
“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 bisexual people may face,” a spokesperson for Stonewall said.
“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.
“We’d also like to see NHS England introduce similar gender identity monitoring for trans and non-binary patients where appropriate.”