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NHS staff told not to ask names over fears of offending trans patients

Under a scheme at the Royal Free, staff wearing a badge are ‘safe’ to provide care to LGBT patients

Critics say the poster at the Royal Free Hospital could leave doctors unable to access a patient’s records

A noticeboard at one of London’s biggest hospitals is advising staff not to ask patients their name in case it causes offence to trans people.

Critics have said that the poster, at the Royal Free Hospital, would in effect leave doctors unable to access a patient’s records and is against General Medical Council rules.

The hospital has been displaying materials as part of an “allyship scheme” that is supposed to be more inclusive.

However, Policy Exchange, a right-wing think tank, which found the materials on display as recently as last week, said that the lanyards risked setting a damaging precedent by creating a divide between staff who could be deemed safe or unsafe in providing care for LGBT patients.

Another banner at the hospital shows that staff have made an anti-racism pledge under the See ME First scheme. Both the LGBTQ+ Ally and See ME First schemes have operated on the basis of staff either making a pledge to obtain a badge or lanyard or participating in allyship training.

One notice cites a 2018 Stonewall survey which claims that one in five LGBT people “are not out” to health professionals when seeking help.

The think tank has questioned why it would be appropriate to disclose sexual orientation to a medical professional when seeking general care unless it was a choice or of clinical relevance.

A notice at the Royal Free tells staff which questions are inappropriate and must be avoided

Lottie Moore, head of the Biology Matters project at Policy Exchange said: “It is unclear why certain staff should be deemed ‘safe’ for LGBTQ+ patients. As set out in the NHS Constitution for England and equality legislation, no NHS staff member should discriminate or deliver lesser care to patients with protected characteristics.”

Sean Phillips, head of health and social care at Policy Exchange, said that cases of poor care “should be dealt with through disciplinary action and the courts, not through ‘allyship’ schemes which have been inconsistently regulated and where there has been a paucity of evidence to suggest they deliver improved outcomes”.

The material included a noticeboard entitled “7 Ways to be a good Trans Friend”. One suggestion is to “stop asking inappropriate questions” and gives the example of “What is your name?”, along with asking about someone’s genitalia. It adds: “Such questions are rude, intrusive and insensitive.”

A Royal Free London spokeswoman said she could not verify whether the material was genuine, although it did have the hospital logo on it. She added that the wording in the “7 ways to be a good Trans Friend” poster was possibly taken from a Health Education England document. If so, the word “real” had been left out of the sentence: “Don’t ask what is your real name,” she added.

A banner at the entrance to the hospital

The LGBTQ+ Ally badge worn at the Royal Free emerged as part of a wider Rainbow Badge initiative, which began as a pilot scheme at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital in 2018. It was a collaboration by several LGBT groups commissioned by NHS England and introduced partially after the survey conducted by Stonewall in 2018 found that “one in seven LGBTQI+ people have avoided treatment for fear of discrimination”.

More than 90 per cent of NHS trusts are participating or have developed their own initiative.

A source close to Steve Barclay, the health secretary, said: “Taxpayers would rightly expect that the NHS focuses on frontline care for patients, and the secretary of state shares that view. He has been very clear that the role of biological sex and freedom of speech should be upheld, and any disregard for that guidance raises serious questions.”

The Royal Free said there was no trust policy of refraining from asking a patient’s name, and the preferred name would always be used.


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