NHS tells staff using ‘he’ and ‘she’ could be offensive

NHS managers in Scotland are being told they should refer to all patients as ‘they’, rather than ‘he’ or ‘she’, to avoid offending transgender people.

NHS Lothian, which is running courses for staff in conjunction with the Scottish Trans Alliance and LGBT Health and Wellbeing, said managers should also use gender-neutral pronouns at home.

A handout advised: “Don’t assume you know which pronouns and titles people prefer – ask what they prefer”.

Language restrictions

It also warned against accidentally using “old names or titles” when calling for people in waiting rooms.

One senior figure who attended a training session said: “They were telling us to actually refer to each other using the term ‘they’.

“If we started using ‘they’ in our personal lives it would become natural when we go into the workplace to refer to everyone using the ‘they’ pronoun, not ‘he’ or ‘she’.”


The manager raised concerns with the course leader, saying she was worried about offending older patients.

“They may feel that their dignity has been compromised, which goes against our core values of safety, dignity and respect. They couldn’t answer.”

Last week it was revealed that women are being put off going for ‘life-saving’ tests and treatments because they fear they might be seen by male doctors who identify as women.

A survey of 2,000 women indicated that some are deterred from visiting gynaecologists or cancel appointments for smear tests and cervical cancer screenings if they cannot be seen by a woman.

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