Campaigners have raised concerns that a new policy which allows male doctors to self-identify as female is deterring vulnerable women from visiting gynaecologists.
A handful of women claim that they have cancelled, delayed or felt uncomfortable during cervical cancer screenings because they were anxious about being presented with a healthcare worker who had transitioned to female.
One woman wrote: “I’ve already missed three smear tests because I am so scared of being presented with a male nurse.” Another said: “The NHS currently try whenever possible to provide me with female healthcare providers due to my traumatic history. If their definition of female and mine changes, it means that I’m unlikely to access medical care.”
One health board, NHS Lothian, said that it was unable to guarantee that female-only care would not be undertaken by a transgender doctor. It said in response to a freedom of information request: “Unless the practitioner consented, to exclude them from carrying out female-only care would be a breach of section 22 of the Gender Recognition Act 2004, and a criminal offence. There are also restrictions under the Equality Act 2010 around requiring staff to disclose their gender identity and staff selection on this basis.
“Charlie”, a 47-year-old writer from Fife, was sexually assaulted as a teenager and suffers flashbacks when put in a vulnerable position with a man. “To be told that I can’t be guaranteed female-only care and I won’t be told when that might not be achievable — those are both real violations of my trust in the health service,” she said. “If someone is telling me they’re female, when I can see that they’re male, I’m already thinking the worst. They’re already lying to me. I would leave.”
[category global, trans]