Trans patients to be treated in separate rooms in hospital under Tory plans

Trans patients to be treated in separate rooms in hospital under Tory plans

Transgender people will be treated in single rooms in hospitals in England under new government plans to update the NHS constitution.

The proposal follows a pledge last year by the then health secretary Steve Barclay to prevent people who had changed their gender identity from being treated on male-only or female-only wards.

The plan is included in a raft of proposed changes to the NHS constitution, which sets out what rights patients have in terms of the care they can expect to receive from the NHS.

Hospital bosses responded by accusing ministers of dragging the NHS “into a pre-election culture wars debate” and ignoring much more pressing issues, such as long waits for care.

The proposals also include a reaffirmation of patients’ existing rights to ask to only receive “intimate care” – such as an examination of their breasts, genitalia or rectum – from hospital staff of the same sex as them and to stay on a single-sex ward.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the aim was to enhance the privacy, dignity and safety of all patients, including trans people.

But Matthew Taylor, the chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents hospital trusts, told ministers it was important that “the NHS is not dragged into a pre-election culture wars debate”.

The debate around changing the constitution “should not be about grabbing headlines”, he added.

Ministers would be better bringing forward detailed plans to improve NHS funding, tackle the decrepit state of many health facilities and get waiting times for A&E care and planned surgery back to the levels that existed when the constitution was first published in 2012, he said.

Dr Emma Runswick, the deputy chair of the British Medical Association council, also criticised the plans for how the NHS should manage hospital inpatients who are trans.

“Some of the proposed changes to the NHS constitution run the risk of causing more harm than good, with the potential to incite further discrimination, harassment and ostracisation of an already marginalised group,” she said.

“If these proposed changes come into effect, transgender and non-binary patients will potentially find their access to vital NHS services limited.”

Taylor described the proposed new guidance as ambiguous. It does not explicitly tell hospitals that they should routinely put a trans person in a single room. But it appears to presume that this will generally happen.

It says that, when hospitals are considering how the long-established single-sex wards policy should apply to those who have changed gender, the needs of every patient on the ward should be taken into account.

It also highlights “the concerns that patients may have about sharing hospital accommodation with patients of the opposite sex”.

“When making these decisions it is important to balance the impact on all service users and show that there is a sufficiently good reason for limiting or modifying a transgender person’s access,” it says.

Giving a trans person a single room would be justified under the Equality Act 2010, because it “allows for the provision of single-sex or separate sex services if certain conditions are met”.

Maria Caulfield, the minister for the women’s health strategy, said the government wanted the NHS to accommodate requests for same-sex intimate care and to stay on a single-sex ward.

But Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, highlighted that NHS figures showed “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.”