A row has erupted about plans to use practices to screen patients for sexuality. NHS England is set to ask all clinicians to ask adult patients about their sexual orientation. The organisation says the move is intended to help it comply with equalities legislation but some senior GPs last night claimed that the requirement would interfere with the doctor-patient relationship.
Dr Peter Swinyard, chair of the Family Doctor Association, said that the question was “potentially intrusive and offensive.”
He said GPs would ask about sexuality if it was relevant to health care. He said: “Given the precious short amount of time a GP has with a patient, sexuality is not relevant.”
And another prominent GP Dr Michael Dixon said: “At some times it might be appropriate to ask such a question, and other times it’s entirely inappropriate. “It might threaten a relationship between GPs and their patients. It’s a bit like saying to your doctor ‘I have a sore throat’, and they ask to check your feet.”
The Royal College of GPs said doctors should ensure that patients were able to choose whether to disclose the information.
Chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said: “A patient’s sexuality can potentially have an impact on some aspects of their healthcare.
“We can take it into account when making a diagnosis or recommending treatments – but it should always be a patient’s choice whether they disclose this information.”
A spokesperson for NHS England, said: “This information standard is designed to help NHS bodies be compliant with the law by consisting collecting, only where relevant, personal details of patients such as race, sex and sexual orientation.
“They do not have to do it in every area, people do not have to answer the questions and it will have no impact on the care they receive.”