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Nurses to ask all patients about their sexual orientation

NHS England is recommending that nurses ask all their patients aged 16 and above what their sexual orientation is as part of equalities monitoring.

The new implementation guidance, which was released with the support of the LGBT Foundation, says: 'We recommend that sexual orientation monitoring occurs at every face-to-face contact with the patient, where no record of this data already exists.'

Once recorded, the data should be updated periodically by each organisation, in the same way as addresses.

Patients will retain the right not to disclose this information, but a response of 'not stated' will be recorded.

The question recommended for use by nurses is:

Sexual orientation:

Which of the following options best describes how you think of yourself?

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)

Source: NHS England

The guidance states that the data should be collected using the same recording and reporting method for other equalities data in the IAPT data set, such as age and gender.

Organisations should take a phased approach to implementation, NHS England said, and make any necessary changes to IT systems as part of broader system updates.

Any training costs should be incorporated into the routine costs of updating monitoring and performance systems, the guidance says.

Wendy Irwin, diversity and equalities coordinator at the Royal College of Nursing said: 'The evidence is clear – LGB communities tend to experience poorer health outcomes.

'Nurses and other health professionals can play an important role in overcoming these inequalities. Monitoring enables them to take intelligent action and direct resources to where they are most needed.

'It's vital that health services are inclusive and this guidance is a positive step to challenging stigma and ensuring patients aren’t discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.'