NHS staff told not to assume people’s gender


The Times reports that NHS managers are being trained to refer to staff and patients as “they” rather than “he” or “she” to avoid offending ‘transgender’ people. 


A course offered by NHS Lothian, reportedly in tandem with Scottish Trans Alliance and LGBT Health and Wellbeing, encouraged managers to use gender-neutral pronouns at home and work to try to normalise their use. 


One manager who attended the training told The Times: “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 is reported to have raised concerns about how this might offend people who simply want to be referred to as a male or female, especially older patients. No answer was given in response to these concerns.


If ‘they’ is to become the standard we must wonder why the views of the vast majority of people in society – those who identify with their biological sex and who prefer ‘he’ or ‘she’ – are being ignored. People tend to be comfortable with biological realities and a growing number are, I suspect, beginning to feel more and more uncomfortable about the push to banish the terms ‘male’ and ‘female’ from everyday discourse. 


The Times also recently revealed that a new policy allowing male doctors to self-identify as female was deterring vulnerable women from visiting gynaecologists. A survey of 2,000 women by the campaign group Women and Girls in Scotland invited respondents to say whether they had ever been excluded from a service because of gender concerns. One respondent wrote: “I’ve already missed three smear tests because I am so scared of being presented with a male nurse.” 


The Scottish Government is considering whether to allow people, including children, to self-declare their gender. Currently, this can only be done with the approval of a doctor. A YouGov poll commissioned by Pink News in August found that only 18% backed the idea that ‘transgender’ individuals should be able to self-declare their gender without the approval of a doctor. Three times as many supported the status quo: that an individual should not be able to self-declare their gender without seeing a doctor.