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Gay rights activists welcome NHS quizzing of patients over sexuality

Gay rights campaigners have backed an NHS policy demanding that doctors and nurses start asking all patients from the age of 16 about their sexual orientation.

NHS England has issued a new standard requiring staff to “record sexual orientation at every face to face contact with the patient, where no record of this data already exists”.

It argues that the data is needed to ensure it meets its obligations under the 2010 Equality Act and will help it better tackle health problems that are more prevalent among lesbian, gay and bisexual people. These include sexually transmitted diseases, mental health problems, alcohol and drug dependency and social isolation in old age.

Patients are not obliged to answer, but Conservative politicians including Jacob Rees-Mogg and the former children and families minister Tim Loughton have attacked the measure respectively as “intrusive and Orwellian” and “political correctness … gone bonkers”.

The policy does not include monitoring gender or gender identity, such as transgender. Instead, GPs, nurses and other health and adult social care staff are being told to ask: “Which of the following options best describes how you think of yourself?”

The options are heterosexual or straight, gay or lesbian, bisexual, other, and don’t know or not sure. Other can include asexual or “queer”, a term the NHS says defines “a complex set of sexual behaviours and desires, or to make a statement against categories such as lesbian, gay, bisexual or straight”. If patients decline to answer that will also be recorded.

The NHS wants all health and social care bodies to be asking the question by April 2019.

Stonewall, the gay rights campaign group, welcomed the new system and said it was “vital sexual orientation is considered in health assessments”.

“We have been calling for sexual orientation to be considered as other protected characteristics for over a decade,” a spokeswoman said. “This move will also help health services gather evidence on and understand the needs of LGB people. This is something that NHS trusts are keen to implement as health services will be able to identify gaps in provision and areas for improvement, before targeting services to meet these needs.”

The veteran gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: “The question is voluntary, but it would be useful for the NHS to know the size of the lesbian, gay and bisexual population in order to plan appropriate and tailored services.

“Quite rightly, the NHS keeps records on race and ethnicity to ensure there is not discrimination and better treatment for these minority groups. It seems entirely sensible to extend that principle to LGB.”

The libertarian thinker and BBC Radio 4 Moral Maze panellist Claire Fox was among those opposing the move.

“The state has no business in our bedrooms,” she told the Sunday Times. “Tell a 16-year-old to define their sexuality and it immediately forces them into a box. The whole point of the sexual revolution was to remove the box.”

An NHS England spokesman said: “All health bodies and local authorities with responsibility for adult social care are required under the Equality Act to ensure that no patient is discriminated against.

“This information standard is designed to help NHS bodies be compliant with the law by consistently 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.”

The “sexual orientation monitoring specification” document was published by the NHS earlier this month. It was produced in conjunction with the charity the LGBT Foundation, which said “there is still a huge lack of evidence about LGBT people, our needs and experiences”.

The document states that as sexual orientation is one of nine protected characteristics defined by the Equality Act, public sector bodies must “pay due regard to the needs of LGB people in the design and delivery of services and ensure (and be able to demonstrate) that people are not discriminated against based upon their sexual orientation”.

Gay rights activists welcome NHS quizzing of patients over sexuality

Gay rights campaigners have backed an NHS policy demanding that doctors and nurses start asking all patients from the age of 16 about their sexual orientation.

NHS England has issued a new standard requiring staff to “record sexual orientation at every face to face contact with the patient, where no record of this data already exists”.

It argues that the data is needed to ensure it meets its obligations under the 2010 Equality Act and will help it better tackle health problems that are more prevalent among lesbian, gay and bisexual people. These include sexually transmitted diseases, mental health problems, alcohol and drug dependency and social isolation in old age.

Patients are not obliged to answer, but Conservative politicians including Jacob Rees-Mogg and the former children and families minister Tim Loughton have attacked the measure respectively as “intrusive and Orwellian” and “political correctness … gone bonkers”.

The policy does not include monitoring gender or gender identity, such as transgender. Instead, GPs, nurses and other health and adult social care staff are being told to ask: “Which of the following options best describes how you think of yourself?”

The options are heterosexual or straight, gay or lesbian, bisexual, other, and don’t know or not sure. Other can include asexual or “queer”, a term the NHS says defines “a complex set of sexual behaviours and desires, or to make a statement against categories such as lesbian, gay, bisexual or straight”. If patients decline to answer that will also be recorded.

The NHS wants all health and social care bodies to be asking the question by April 2019.

Stonewall, the gay rights campaign group, welcomed the new system and said it was “vital sexual orientation is considered in health assessments”.

“We have been calling for sexual orientation to be considered as other protected characteristics for over a decade,” a spokeswoman said. “This move will also help health services gather evidence on and understand the needs of LGB people. This is something that NHS trusts are keen to implement as health services will be able to identify gaps in provision and areas for improvement, before targeting services to meet these needs.”

The veteran gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: “The question is voluntary, but it would be useful for the NHS to know the size of the lesbian, gay and bisexual population in order to plan appropriate and tailored services.

“Quite rightly, the NHS keeps records on race and ethnicity to ensure there is not discrimination and better treatment for these minority groups. It seems entirely sensible to extend that principle to LGB.”

The libertarian thinker and BBC Radio 4 Moral Maze panellist Claire Fox was among those opposing the move.

“The state has no business in our bedrooms,” she told the Sunday Times. “Tell a 16-year-old to define their sexuality and it immediately forces them into a box. The whole point of the sexual revolution was to remove the box.”

An NHS England spokesman said: “All health bodies and local authorities with responsibility for adult social care are required under the Equality Act to ensure that no patient is discriminated against.

“This information standard is designed to help NHS bodies be compliant with the law by consistently 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.”

The “sexual orientation monitoring specification” document was published by the NHS earlier this month. It was produced in conjunction with the charity the LGBT Foundation, which said “there is still a huge lack of evidence about LGBT people, our needs and experiences”.

The document states that as sexual orientation is one of nine protected characteristics defined by the Equality Act, public sector bodies must “pay due regard to the needs of LGB people in the design and delivery of services and ensure (and be able to demonstrate) that people are not discriminated against based upon their sexual orientation”.

Gay rights activists welcome NHS quizzing of patients over sexuality

Gay rights campaigners have backed an NHS policy demanding that doctors and nurses start asking all patients from the age of 16 about their sexual orientation.

NHS England has issued a new standard requiring staff to “record sexual orientation at every face to face contact with the patient, where no record of this data already exists”.

It argues that the data is needed to ensure it meets its obligations under the 2010 Equality Act and will help it better tackle health problems that are more prevalent among lesbian, gay and bisexual people. These include sexually transmitted diseases, mental health problems, alcohol and drug dependency and social isolation in old age.

Patients are not obliged to answer, but Conservative politicians including Jacob Rees-Mogg and the former children and families minister Tim Loughton have attacked the measure respectively as “intrusive and Orwellian” and “political correctness … gone bonkers”.

The policy does not include monitoring gender or gender identity, such as transgender. Instead, GPs, nurses and other health and adult social care staff are being told to ask: “Which of the following options best describes how you think of yourself?”

The options are heterosexual or straight, gay or lesbian, bisexual, other, and don’t know or not sure. Other can include asexual or “queer”, a term the NHS says defines “a complex set of sexual behaviours and desires, or to make a statement against categories such as lesbian, gay, bisexual or straight”. If patients decline to answer that will also be recorded.

The NHS wants all health and social care bodies to be asking the question by April 2019.

Stonewall, the gay rights campaign group, welcomed the new system and said it was “vital sexual orientation is considered in health assessments”.

“We have been calling for sexual orientation to be considered as other protected characteristics for over a decade,” a spokeswoman said. “This move will also help health services gather evidence on and understand the needs of LGB people. This is something that NHS trusts are keen to implement as health services will be able to identify gaps in provision and areas for improvement, before targeting services to meet these needs.”

The veteran gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: “The question is voluntary, but it would be useful for the NHS to know the size of the lesbian, gay and bisexual population in order to plan appropriate and tailored services.

“Quite rightly, the NHS keeps records on race and ethnicity to ensure there is not discrimination and better treatment for these minority groups. It seems entirely sensible to extend that principle to LGB.”

The libertarian thinker and BBC Radio 4 Moral Maze panellist Claire Fox was among those opposing the move.

“The state has no business in our bedrooms,” she told the Sunday Times. “Tell a 16-year-old to define their sexuality and it immediately forces them into a box. The whole point of the sexual revolution was to remove the box.”

An NHS England spokesman said: “All health bodies and local authorities with responsibility for adult social care are required under the Equality Act to ensure that no patient is discriminated against.

“This information standard is designed to help NHS bodies be compliant with the law by consistently 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.”

The “sexual orientation monitoring specification” document was published by the NHS earlier this month. It was produced in conjunction with the charity the LGBT Foundation, which said “there is still a huge lack of evidence about LGBT people, our needs and experiences”.

The document states that as sexual orientation is one of nine protected characteristics defined by the Equality Act, public sector bodies must “pay due regard to the needs of LGB people in the design and delivery of services and ensure (and be able to demonstrate) that people are not discriminated against based upon their sexual orientation”.

Gay rights activists welcome NHS quizzing of patients over sexuality

Gay rights campaigners have backed an NHS policy demanding that doctors and nurses start asking all patients from the age of 16 about their sexual orientation.

NHS England has issued a new standard requiring staff to “record sexual orientation at every face to face contact with the patient, where no record of this data already exists”.

It argues that the data is needed to ensure it meets its obligations under the 2010 Equality Act and will help it better tackle health problems that are more prevalent among lesbian, gay and bisexual people. These include sexually transmitted diseases, mental health problems, alcohol and drug dependency and social isolation in old age.

Patients are not obliged to answer, but Conservative politicians including Jacob Rees-Mogg and the former children and families minister Tim Loughton have attacked the measure respectively as “intrusive and Orwellian” and “political correctness … gone bonkers”.

The policy does not include monitoring gender or gender identity, such as transgender. Instead, GPs, nurses and other health and adult social care staff are being told to ask: “Which of the following options best describes how you think of yourself?”

The options are heterosexual or straight, gay or lesbian, bisexual, other, and don’t know or not sure. Other can include asexual or “queer”, a term the NHS says defines “a complex set of sexual behaviours and desires, or to make a statement against categories such as lesbian, gay, bisexual or straight”. If patients decline to answer that will also be recorded.

The NHS wants all health and social care bodies to be asking the question by April 2019.

Stonewall, the gay rights campaign group, welcomed the new system and said it was “vital sexual orientation is considered in health assessments”.

“We have been calling for sexual orientation to be considered as other protected characteristics for over a decade,” a spokeswoman said. “This move will also help health services gather evidence on and understand the needs of LGB people. This is something that NHS trusts are keen to implement as health services will be able to identify gaps in provision and areas for improvement, before targeting services to meet these needs.”

The veteran gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: “The question is voluntary, but it would be useful for the NHS to know the size of the lesbian, gay and bisexual population in order to plan appropriate and tailored services.

“Quite rightly, the NHS keeps records on race and ethnicity to ensure there is not discrimination and better treatment for these minority groups. It seems entirely sensible to extend that principle to LGB.”

The libertarian thinker and BBC Radio 4 Moral Maze panellist Claire Fox was among those opposing the move.

“The state has no business in our bedrooms,” she told the Sunday Times. “Tell a 16-year-old to define their sexuality and it immediately forces them into a box. The whole point of the sexual revolution was to remove the box.”

An NHS England spokesman said: “All health bodies and local authorities with responsibility for adult social care are required under the Equality Act to ensure that no patient is discriminated against.

“This information standard is designed to help NHS bodies be compliant with the law by consistently 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.”

The “sexual orientation monitoring specification” document was published by the NHS earlier this month. It was produced in conjunction with the charity the LGBT Foundation, which said “there is still a huge lack of evidence about LGBT people, our needs and experiences”.

The document states that as sexual orientation is one of nine protected characteristics defined by the Equality Act, public sector bodies must “pay due regard to the needs of LGB people in the design and delivery of services and ensure (and be able to demonstrate) that people are not discriminated against based upon their sexual orientation”.

Gay rights activists welcome NHS quizzing of patients over sexuality

Gay rights campaigners have backed an NHS policy demanding that doctors and nurses start asking all patients from the age of 16 about their sexual orientation.

NHS England has issued a new standard requiring staff to “record sexual orientation at every face to face contact with the patient, where no record of this data already exists”.

It argues that the data is needed to ensure it meets its obligations under the 2010 Equality Act and will help it better tackle health problems that are more prevalent among lesbian, gay and bisexual people. These include sexually transmitted diseases, mental health problems, alcohol and drug dependency and social isolation in old age.

Patients are not obliged to answer, but Conservative politicians including Jacob Rees-Mogg and the former children and families minister Tim Loughton have attacked the measure respectively as “intrusive and Orwellian” and “political correctness … gone bonkers”.

The policy does not include monitoring gender or gender identity, such as transgender. Instead, GPs, nurses and other health and adult social care staff are being told to ask: “Which of the following options best describes how you think of yourself?”

The options are heterosexual or straight, gay or lesbian, bisexual, other, and don’t know or not sure. Other can include asexual or “queer”, a term the NHS says defines “a complex set of sexual behaviours and desires, or to make a statement against categories such as lesbian, gay, bisexual or straight”. If patients decline to answer that will also be recorded.

The NHS wants all health and social care bodies to be asking the question by April 2019.

Stonewall, the gay rights campaign group, welcomed the new system and said it was “vital sexual orientation is considered in health assessments”.

“We have been calling for sexual orientation to be considered as other protected characteristics for over a decade,” a spokeswoman said. “This move will also help health services gather evidence on and understand the needs of LGB people. This is something that NHS trusts are keen to implement as health services will be able to identify gaps in provision and areas for improvement, before targeting services to meet these needs.”

The veteran gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: “The question is voluntary, but it would be useful for the NHS to know the size of the lesbian, gay and bisexual population in order to plan appropriate and tailored services.

“Quite rightly, the NHS keeps records on race and ethnicity to ensure there is not discrimination and better treatment for these minority groups. It seems entirely sensible to extend that principle to LGB.”

The libertarian thinker and BBC Radio 4 Moral Maze panellist Claire Fox was among those opposing the move.

“The state has no business in our bedrooms,” she told the Sunday Times. “Tell a 16-year-old to define their sexuality and it immediately forces them into a box. The whole point of the sexual revolution was to remove the box.”

An NHS England spokesman said: “All health bodies and local authorities with responsibility for adult social care are required under the Equality Act to ensure that no patient is discriminated against.

“This information standard is designed to help NHS bodies be compliant with the law by consistently 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.”

The “sexual orientation monitoring specification” document was published by the NHS earlier this month. It was produced in conjunction with the charity the LGBT Foundation, which said “there is still a huge lack of evidence about LGBT people, our needs and experiences”.

The document states that as sexual orientation is one of nine protected characteristics defined by the Equality Act, public sector bodies must “pay due regard to the needs of LGB people in the design and delivery of services and ensure (and be able to demonstrate) that people are not discriminated against based upon their sexual orientation”.

Children’s tsar savages NHS over ‘unacceptable’ mental health care

The children’s commissioner has launched a savage attack on the head of the NHS, accusing him of denigrating research that shows an “unacceptable” lack of children’s mental health provision.

In a highly unusual move, Anne Longfield has published an open letter to Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, accusing him of ignoring young people’s experiences of the service and the frustrations of their parents. Laying out a list of grievances against him and his team, she also threatens to use the law to compel him to hand over data on waiting times for children’s mental health services.

Longfield made the decision to go public with her complaints – published on the commissioner’s website – after Stevens rubbished many of the claims in her recent report into children’s mental health, an issue she identified as her top priority after consulting with children.

“Many told me about their desperate attempts, sometimes lasting years, to access support, and even primary school children raised concerns about anxiety,” Longfield told Stevens in the letter. The report, published to coincide with World Mental Health Day last week, estimated that only between a quarter and a fifth of children with mental health conditions received help last year. It stated: “Progress in improving children’s mental health services has been unacceptably slow.”

Stevens is standing his ground. In a response to Longfield, obtained by the Observer, he suggests NHSE was “bounced” into giving a response to the report only after aspects of it were shared with journalists. He said that a key finding of the report, that “the government’s much-vaunted prioritisation of mental health has yet to translate into change at a local level”, was “demonstrably factually inaccurate”. Stevens writes: “I’m afraid we stand by our view that your report did indeed in places give a misleading view of NHS care.”

Longfield had warned that provision for young people was a postcode lottery and said that “children’s inability to access mental health support” was leading to a range of extra problems, “from school exclusions to care placements breaking down to children ending up in the youth justice system”.

It is highly unusual for the holders of two important public offices to be involved in such a public argument, particularly over an issue as sensitive as children’s mental health. Longfield, whose role is to promote and defend the rights of children, was appointed to the post by then education secretary Nicky Morgan in 2014. Stevens took his job at the head of NHS England (NHSE) in the same year.

Longfield’s report made difficult reading for the government at a time when concerns over the health service have reached a critical level. Theresa May identified improving mental health as a key issue but, before the busy winter period, there are concerns the NHS will struggle to cope with demand even for what are considered priority services, such as accident and emergency.

Stevens’s robust criticisms that the report contained “basic errors” were a powerful retort to Longfield’s claims. However, in a move that will ensure mental health provision for young people once again becomes a major political issue, Longfield has hit back, saying the report was published only after consultation with NHS England.

“The briefing was prepared using the NHS’s own data,” Longfield writes. “My conclusion on reading, checking and rechecking was that the service that exists at the moment is worryingly poor, a conclusion I stand by.”

In a highly personalised attack, Longfield tells Stevens: “I was very disappointed that NHS England’s response to our report, and your own personal response in front of the Commons health select committee, was to attempt to denigrate the research. Not once did you address the central issues raised. Instead, you and your team sought to undermine the important evidence that we are putting forward and strangely ignore the reality of children’s experiences of the service and the frustrations of their parents.”

Longfield suggested that Stevens’s claims that she and her team had not bothered to check the report were “untrue”. Similarly, claims that NHSE had not been given adequate time to review the report before commenting were also without foundation, according to Longfield. “I am under no duty or obligation to share my work in advance, yet we did so, out of courtesy.”

Stevens had indicated that NHSE was in possession of data that could be used to refute many of Longfield’s claims. However, the commissioner said: “If the NHS has data not in the public domain that disputes the picture we painted, then in the interests of transparency and accountability NHSE should publish it.”

She adds: “I hope you will feel able to share this data. As you will know, I am also able to demand such data under section 2f of the Children’s Act 2014.”

She concludes: “I hope in future we could all concentrate our efforts on tackling [health issues] rather than trying to undermine the work of those who make valid and constructive criticisms.”

Sarah Wollaston, chair of the health select committee, said the row would be discussed when the committee met on Tuesday.

“It’s very important that there is a constructive relationship between the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and NHS England,” she said.

Children’s tsar savages NHS over ‘unacceptable’ mental health care

The children’s commissioner has launched a savage attack on the head of the NHS, accusing him of denigrating research that shows an “unacceptable” lack of children’s mental health provision.

In a highly unusual move, Anne Longfield has published an open letter to Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, accusing him of ignoring young people’s experiences of the service and the frustrations of their parents. Laying out a list of grievances against him and his team, she also threatens to use the law to compel him to hand over data on waiting times for children’s mental health services.

Longfield made the decision to go public with her complaints – published on the commissioner’s website – after Stevens rubbished many of the claims in her recent report into children’s mental health, an issue she identified as her top priority after consulting with children.

“Many told me about their desperate attempts, sometimes lasting years, to access support, and even primary school children raised concerns about anxiety,” Longfield told Stevens in the letter. The report, published to coincide with World Mental Health Day last week, estimated that only between a quarter and a fifth of children with mental health conditions received help last year. It stated: “Progress in improving children’s mental health services has been unacceptably slow.”

Stevens is standing his ground. In a response to Longfield, obtained by the Observer, he suggests NHSE was “bounced” into giving a response to the report only after aspects of it were shared with journalists. He said that a key finding of the report, that “the government’s much-vaunted prioritisation of mental health has yet to translate into change at a local level”, was “demonstrably factually inaccurate”. Stevens writes: “I’m afraid we stand by our view that your report did indeed in places give a misleading view of NHS care.”

Longfield had warned that provision for young people was a postcode lottery and said that “children’s inability to access mental health support” was leading to a range of extra problems, “from school exclusions to care placements breaking down to children ending up in the youth justice system”.

It is highly unusual for the holders of two important public offices to be involved in such a public argument, particularly over an issue as sensitive as children’s mental health. Longfield, whose role is to promote and defend the rights of children, was appointed to the post by then education secretary Nicky Morgan in 2014. Stevens took his job at the head of NHS England (NHSE) in the same year.

Longfield’s report made difficult reading for the government at a time when concerns over the health service have reached a critical level. Theresa May identified improving mental health as a key issue but, before the busy winter period, there are concerns the NHS will struggle to cope with demand even for what are considered priority services, such as accident and emergency.

Stevens’s robust criticisms that the report contained “basic errors” were a powerful retort to Longfield’s claims. However, in a move that will ensure mental health provision for young people once again becomes a major political issue, Longfield has hit back, saying the report was published only after consultation with NHS England.

“The briefing was prepared using the NHS’s own data,” Longfield writes. “My conclusion on reading, checking and rechecking was that the service that exists at the moment is worryingly poor, a conclusion I stand by.”

In a highly personalised attack, Longfield tells Stevens: “I was very disappointed that NHS England’s response to our report, and your own personal response in front of the Commons health select committee, was to attempt to denigrate the research. Not once did you address the central issues raised. Instead, you and your team sought to undermine the important evidence that we are putting forward and strangely ignore the reality of children’s experiences of the service and the frustrations of their parents.”

Longfield suggested that Stevens’s claims that she and her team had not bothered to check the report were “untrue”. Similarly, claims that NHSE had not been given adequate time to review the report before commenting were also without foundation, according to Longfield. “I am under no duty or obligation to share my work in advance, yet we did so, out of courtesy.”

Stevens had indicated that NHSE was in possession of data that could be used to refute many of Longfield’s claims. However, the commissioner said: “If the NHS has data not in the public domain that disputes the picture we painted, then in the interests of transparency and accountability NHSE should publish it.”

She adds: “I hope you will feel able to share this data. As you will know, I am also able to demand such data under section 2f of the Children’s Act 2014.”

She concludes: “I hope in future we could all concentrate our efforts on tackling [health issues] rather than trying to undermine the work of those who make valid and constructive criticisms.”

Sarah Wollaston, chair of the health select committee, said the row would be discussed when the committee met on Tuesday.

“It’s very important that there is a constructive relationship between the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and NHS England,” she said.

Patients in England to be quizzed over their sexuality

Family doctors, nurses and other medical staff in England will be able to quiz patients on their sexual orientation under government plans.

People over the age of 16 visiting their local GP or hospital may be asked to confirm whether they are straight, gay, bisexual or other from 2019.

The NHS guidance apparently asks medical professionals to keep a record of the patient’s answer during face-to-face consultations.

The health service said the move was to keep in line with equality legislation to ensure those who do not identify as heterosexual are treated fairly.

Individual NHS trusts will decide whether to opt out of the move, and patients will not be forced to answer.

An NHS England spokesman said: “All health bodies and local authorities with responsibility for adult social care are required under the Equality Act to ensure that no patient is discriminated against.

“This information standard is designed to help NHS bodies be compliant with the law by consistently 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.”

Patients in England to be quizzed over their sexuality

Family doctors, nurses and other medical staff in England will be able to quiz patients on their sexual orientation under government plans.

People over the age of 16 visiting their local GP or hospital may be asked to confirm whether they are straight, gay, bisexual or other from 2019.

The NHS guidance apparently asks medical professionals to keep a record of the patient’s answer during face-to-face consultations.
The health service said the move was to keep in line with equality legislation to ensure those who do not identify as heterosexual are treated fairly.

Individual NHS trusts will decide whether to opt out of the move, and patients will not be forced to answer.

An NHS England spokesman said: “All health bodies and local authorities with responsibility for adult social care are required under the Equality Act to ensure that no patient is discriminated against.

“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.”

Children’s tsar savages NHS over paucity of mental healthcare

The children’s commissioner has launched a savage attack on the head of the NHS, accusing him of denigrating research that shows an “unacceptable” lack of children’s mental health provision.

In a highly unusual move, Anne Longfield has published an open letter to Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, accusing him of ignoring young people’s experiences of the service and the frustrations of their parents. Laying out a list of grievances against him and his team, she also threatens to use the law to compel him to hand over data on waiting times for children’s mental health services.

Longfield made the decision to go public with her complaints – published on the commissioner’s website – after Stevens rubbished many of the claims in her recent report into children’s mental health, an issue she identified as her top priority after consulting with children.

“Many told me about their desperate attempts, sometimes lasting years, to access support, and even primary school children raised concerns about anxiety,” Longfield told Stevens in the letter. The report, published to coincide with World Mental Health Day last week, estimated that only between a quarter and a fifth of children with mental health conditions received help last year. It stated: “Progress in improving children’s mental health services has been unacceptably slow.”

Stevens is standing his ground. In a response to Longfield, obtained by the Observer, he suggests NHSE was “bounced” into giving a response to the report only after aspects of it were shared with journalists. He said that a key finding of the report, that “the government’s much-vaunted prioritisation of mental health has yet to translate into change at a local level”, was “demonstrably factually inaccurate”. Stevens writes: “I’m afraid we stand by our view that your report did indeed in places give a misleading view of NHS care.”

Longfield had warned that provision for young people was a postcode lottery and said that “children’s inability to access mental health support” was leading to a range of extra problems, “from school exclusions to care placements breaking down to children ending up in the youth justice system”.

It is highly unusual for the holders of two important public offices to be involved in such a public argument, particularly over an issue as sensitive as children’s mental health. Longfield, whose role is to promote and defend the rights of children, was appointed to the post by then education secretary Nicky Morgan in 2014. Stevens took his job at the head of NHS England (NHSE) in the same year.

Longfield’s report made difficult reading for the government at a time when concerns over the health service have reached a critical level. Theresa May identified improving mental health as a key issue but, before the busy winter period, there are concerns the NHS will struggle to cope with demand even for what are considered priority services, such as accident and emergency.

Stevens’s robust criticisms that the report contained “basic errors” were a powerful retort to Longfield’s claims. However, in a move that will ensure mental health provision for young people once again becomes a major political issue, Longfield has hit back, saying the report was published only after consultation with NHS England.

“The briefing was prepared using the NHS’s own data,” Longfield writes. “My conclusion on reading, checking and rechecking was that the service that exists at the moment is worryingly poor, a conclusion I stand by.”

In a highly personalised attack, Longfield tells Stevens: “I was very disappointed that NHS England’s response to our report, and your own personal response in front of the Commons health select committee, was to attempt to denigrate the research. Not once did you address the central issues raised. Instead, you and your team sought to undermine the important evidence that we are putting forward and strangely ignore the reality of children’s experiences of the service and the frustrations of their parents.”

Longfield suggested that Stevens’s claims that she and her team had not bothered to check the report were “untrue”. Similarly, claims that NHSE had not been given adequate time to review the report before commenting were also without foundation, according to Longfield. “I am under no duty or obligation to share my work in advance, yet we did so, out of courtesy.”

Stevens had indicated that NHSE was in possession of data that could be used to refute many of Longfield’s claims. However, the commissioner said: “If the NHS has data not in the public domain that disputes the picture we painted, then in the interests of transparency and accountability NHSE should publish it.”

She adds: “I hope you will feel able to share this data. As you will know, I am also able to demand such data under section 2f of the Children’s Act 2014.”

She concludes: “I hope in future we could all concentrate our efforts on tackling [health issues] rather than trying to undermine the work of those who make valid and constructive criticisms.”

Sarah Wollaston, chair of the health select committee, said the row would be discussed when the committee met on Tuesday.

“It’s very important that there is a constructive relationship between the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and NHS England,” she said.