Nurses and other health professionals will be expected to routinely ask patients about their sexual orientation in future, as part of new guidance on data monitoring in England.
The guidelines, published this month by NHS England, are intended to drive the implantation of the Fundamental Standard for Sexual Orientation Monitoring by NHS trusts and local authorities.
“The sexual orientation monitoring information standard is a hugely important step in the right direction”
The standard is designed to promote the recording of sexual orientation of all patients and service users aged 16 years and over across all health services and councils providing adult social care.
The guidance states: “We recommend that sexual orientation monitoring occurs at every face to face contact with the patient, where no record of this data already exists.
“Demographic data should be periodically reviewed by the organisation collecting it i.e. once recorded, entries will need to be verified with the patient,” it said.
“The patient will retain the right not to disclose this information, but this response will become part of the record – similar to that which is done with recording ethnicity,” added the document.
The guidance also sets out seven options that people will be able to choose from that “best describes how you think of yourself”. These are:
- 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)
Such data is understood to already be being collected in many areas but the guidance will help make it a standard procedure across the country by April 2019.
The new standard has already been piloted in 12 sites nationally under the oversight of NHS Employers, the organisation that represents health service trusts.
A cross-system task and finish group, which includes the Royal College of Nursing and Unison, has also been set up to support implementation of the standard following its publication.
The standard was developed in conjunction with Manchester’s LGBT Foundation, which has worked on it with organisations including NHS Digital, the Department of Health, and Public Health England.
Paul Martin, chief executive of the LGBT Foundation, welcomed the launch of the standard and publication of its accompanying implementation guidance.
He noted that work had been underway for “a number of years to create a way for health and social care professionals to monitor sexual orientation in a consistent way”.
He said: “If we’re not counted, we don’t count, and the launch of the sexual orientation monitoring information standard is a hugely important step in the right direction towards addressing LGB inequality in health and social care in Greater Manchester and beyond.”
The new national sexual orientation monitoring information standard was also welcomed by Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham.
Highlighting the role of the city’s LGBT Foundation branch, Mr Burnham said: “Introducing this new national standard for monitoring sexual orientation is a genuine success story for Greater Manchester.
“It will ensure that the NHS can provide the right kind of targeted service which will improve health outcomes for lesbian, gay and bi people, which in turn will reduce demand on the health service as a whole,” he said.