A survey has found that Department of Health (DoH) officials are unhappy answering questions about their sexuality, despite overseeing a policy which forces doctors to ask patients about theirs.
From April next year, NHS doctors and nurses will have to ask patients over the age of 16 if they are heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, other, or unsure, regardless of the relevance of sexuality to their health complaint.
But the DoH ‘Equality Analysis’ poll found that more than a third of staff did not feel comfortable disclosing their own status.
It showed that 28 per cent of the 1,401 employees did not declare their sexuality, and six percent said they would “prefer not to say”.
Responding to the survey, Dr Michael Dixon, Chair of the College of Medicine, said: “If the people who are in charge of making such policies aren’t themselves happy to answer these questions then I think it does cast great doubt over whether the policy itself is a good one in the first place.”
He added: “When sexuality is a relevant issue, clearly the right questions will be asked.”
Not their business
The data is already being collected in many areas, but the policy – part of a Government ‘diversity’ drive – will be rolled out across England by April 2019.
Patients who have not already declared their sexuality will be asked but are not compelled to answer.
When the policy was announced in October last year, the Chairman of the Family Doctor Association, Dr Peter Swinyard, warned that it “is not the place of family doctors to start monitoring people’s sexuality”.
Former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan cautioned that the plans could be “very intrusive” for patients, and Labour MP Graham Stringer said: “Unless it’s related to your health, your sexuality is not the NHS’s business.”