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Patients’ right to request same-sex intimate care to be included in NHS Constitution

Patients’ right to request same-sex intimate care to be included in NHS Constitution

The Government is proposing to change the NHS Constitution so that patients have a right to request that intimate care is carried out by someone of the same biological sex.  

Today it launched a consultation on changes to the constitution – a document outlining the rights of patients and staff – which will run for eight weeks.

Other proposed changes include ‘reinforcing the NHS’s commitment to providing single sex wards’ and setting out that placing transgender patients in single-room accommodation ‘is permissible’ under the Equality Act 2010 ‘when it is appropriate’.

The consultation was first announced last year by then health secretary Steve Barclay, ‘to address growing concerns raised by both patients and staff about biological men being allowed onto women’s hospital wards’.

The Government said that the changes will mean patients ‘will be empowered’ to request that intimate care is carried out by someone of the same biological sex, ‘where reasonably possible’ – adding that it has been ‘clear’ that ‘biological sex matters’.

Health secretary Victoria Atkins said: ’We want to make it abundantly clear that if a patient wants same-sex care they should have access to it wherever reasonably possible.  We have always been clear that sex matters and our services should respect that.

‘By putting this in the NHS Constitution we’re highlighting the importance of balancing the rights and needs of all patients to make a healthcare system that is faster, simpler and fairer for all.’

The consultation also plans to embed a patient’s right to access a rapid external review if they are deteriorating.

The NHS Constitution, which was last updated in 2015, has to be brought up to date at least every 10 years.

Health minister Maria Caulfield said: ’Updating the NHS Constitution is crucial to ensuring the principles underpinning our NHS work for everyone. 

‘This is about putting patients first, giving them the dignity and respect that they deserve when they are at their most vulnerable. Our plans include accommodating requests for same-sex intimate care and respecting single sex wards.

‘We’ll also recognise the important role of patients’ loved ones in raising concerns about their care.’

Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting said that the NHS Constitution already pledges that no patient will have to share an overnight ward with patients of the opposite sex, but ‘that is not the case for too many patients’.

He said: ‘The use of mixed sex wards has exploded under the Tories. Women were forced to spend the night on wards alongside male patients 44,000 times last year, 20 times as many as a decade ago, putting huge numbers of people’s safety at risk.

‘The Conservatives’ cuts to hospital beds and failure to train enough staff has left the health service unable to protect patients’ basic dignity.’

The Government said it will consider consultation responses from the public, clinicians and medical professionals, patients, carers and organisations representing patients and staff and health stakeholders.

Last year, it decided to revert online NHS advice pages to ‘sex-specific’ language, in a move to avoid ‘confusing and unclear’ information.


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Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

David Church 30 April, 2024 12:51 pm

Well, I think GP practices will be able to accept requests, but many will have difficulty actually fulfilling those requests.
Whilst most NHS hospitals should, and will be able to provide same sex staff for male and female, and I know of even a few fairies, elves, non-binaries, and even santas on the staff lists, there are fairly few of them, and almost all hospitals will struggle to arrange good quality care provided by unicorms, fire-trucks, cats, dogs, Klingons or rarer genders.

SUBHASH BHATT 30 April, 2024 4:09 pm

Single handed male gp will have trouble finding female gp to examine.