Health staff told to call patients ‘they’
HEALTH bosses are being told to refer to staff and patients as ‘they’ rather than ‘he’ or ‘she’ to avoid offending transgender people.
Courses offered by NHS Lothian, in tandem with the Scottish Trans Alliance and LGBT Health and Wellbeing, encouraged staff to use gender-neutral pronouns at home and work to try to get used to them.
The aim is to enable staff to support transgender patients, by using the correct form of address.
But staff have raised concerns that the training goes further than that and encourages people to change the language they use in their personal lives so it becomes more ‘natural’.
Among tips for supporting transgender patients, staff are advised: ‘Don’t assume you know which pronouns and titles people prefer – ask what they prefer’; and ‘think about how you call for people in waiting rooms – ensure that you don’t accidentally use old names or titles’.
A source at NHS Lothian who attended an hour-long session said: ‘They were telling us to 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.’
The manager said she was worried about offending older patients by not referring to them as Mr or Mrs.
She added: ‘I asked [the course leader] whether this could be an issue with elderly patients if I was referring to them as “they”. They may feel that their dignity has been compromised, which goes against our core values of safety, dignity and respect. They couldn’t answer.’
Scottish Trans Alliance manager James Morton did not respond to inquiries yesterday but told The Times its staff member who co-facilitated the NHS Lothian training session did not give the advice on pronouns.
LGBT Health and Wellbeing did not respond to a request for comment.
Alison McCallum, director of public health and public policy at NHS Lothian, said: ‘NHS Lothian is committed to promoting equality, diversity and human rights. A series of transgender awareness workshops was held for staff in December 2017 to promote good working practice and also to remind them to be mindful and respectful of their patients and colleagues.
‘Learning outcomes included exploring the appropriate terms and definitions relating to transgender and non-binary people, including the use of non-binary pronouns.’
A spokesman for women’s rights campaign group forwomen.scot said: ‘We believe many patients will find this insulting and dehumanising. We are worried the drive to encourage a culture of gender neutrality in medicine will have adverse effects.
‘So many conditions present differently depending on the patient’s biological sex. Doctors need to be able to treat the body of the patient and not worry about validating identity.’
‘Insulting and dehumanising’