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a sexual orientation imageOctober 23 2017

New NHS guidelines will expect health professionals to ask patients aged 16 and over about their sexual identity and record the information.

The guidance supports the implementation of the Information Standard for Sexual Orientation Monitoring. This “provides the mechanism for recording the sexual orientation of all patients/service users aged 16 years and over across all health services and Local Authorities with responsibilities for Adult social care in England where it may be relevant to record this information.”

The question for health care professionals to use will be as follows:

Which of the following options best describes how you think of yourself?

1. Heterosexual or Straight

2. Gay or Lesbian

3. Bisexual

4. Other sexual orientation not listed

U. Person asked and does not know or is not sure

Z. Not stated (person asked but declined to provide a response)

9. Not known (not recorded”

Health professionals will be expected to ask the question if the information has not been recorded already. A table in the guidance shows how the codes for this standard map to those used by SNOMED CT.

The guidance also points out that “the General Data Protection Regulation is due to come into force on May 25 2018. Consequently, providers will need to carry out a further review of their basis for processing this data before that time to ensure compliance with that Regulation.”

The guidance has triggered media headlines. Family Doctor Association Chairman Dr Peter Swinyard told the BBC that it was “potentially intrusive and offensive” for GPs to monitor people's sexuality.

RCGP Chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: “A patient’s sexuality can potentially have an impact on some aspects of their healthcare, so it is certainly helpful for a GP to know so that 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.

“We would like to reassure patients that any information they tell their GP is completely confidential, and we are highly trained to have non-judgemental conversations about all issues that might be affecting their health and wellbeing, so we would encourage our patients to disclose anything that they think may be relevant.”

Link:
LGBT Foundation / NHS England ‘Implementation Guidance Fundamental Standard for Sexual Orientation Monitoring’    
BBC coverage   
RCGP statement                

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