New NHS guidelines: Transgender patients may choose male or female wards

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Transgender patients can choose whether they want to be treated on male or female wards, new UK National Health Service (NHS) guidance stipulates. NHS England says patients should be accommodated “according to their presentation”, noting the “way they dress, and the name and pronouns they currently use”. The Daily Telegraph reports that the announcement follows its investigation which revealed that despite official guidance from the Department of Health designed to eliminate mixed sex wards, hospitals were routinely allowing male patients to share female wards if they self-identify as women and without them having to transition.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, ordered a review following this newspaper’s findings that none of the NHS England trusts required patients to have begun transitioning for them to be treated in accordance with how they identified.

However, the report says, the latest NHS guidance says that having “different genital or breast sex appearance” is not a reason for denying patients a space on a single sex ward. It also added that “trans men and non-binary individuals can become pregnant and should be treated with dignity while using maternity services”.

Last night trans rights charities and human rights lawyers hailed the policy as “sensible and encouraging”. However, some academics and women’s groups have criticised it, with one MP claiming that it “drives a wrecking ball” through women’s rights.

The document says that “trans people should be accommodated according to their presentation: the way they dress, and the name and pronouns they currently use”. It adds that: “Those who have undergone transition should be accommodated according to their gender presentation” and that “different genital or breast sex appearance is not a bar to this”. This means that patients would share toilet and bathing facilities – although it is advised that “pre-operative trans people should not share open shower facilities”. Non-binary patients should also be “asked discreetly about their preferences” and allowed to choose whether they are allocated to a male or female ward.

The guidance concludes: “Good practice requires that clinical responses be patient-centred, respectful and flexible towards all transgender people whether they live continuously or temporarily in a gender role that does not conform to their natal sex.”

Jonathan Cooper QC, a human rights barrister at Doughty Street chambers, said in the report that the guidance looks “sensitively devised”. “Trans identity is an integral part of being human,” he said. “The provision of healthcare for trans people is premised on equality not tolerance. This policy respects that and is in keeping with the spirit of the Equality Act.”

However, David Davies, Conservative MP for Monmouth, described the policy as “entirely incoherent”.

The Daily Telegraph NHS Guidance

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