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Health Secretary announces clear guidance on same-sex hospital wards

6 October 2023
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At the Conservative Party Conference, Health Secretary Steve Barclay announced plans to ban trans women from female-only hospital wards.

He says such proposals would mean the return of “a common-sense approach to sex and equality”, after sharing frustrations around “ideological dogma” in the health service.

It has been reported that NHS guidance refers to pregnant “people”, rather than “women”, and “breastfeeding” has been replaced with “chestfeeding”.

Under the new guidance, trans patients would instead be provided with separate accommodation, which could mean their own rooms when admitted to hospital.

Ahead of the announcement, a number of people spoke out in favour of the proposals.

Among them were Dr Louise Irvine, the co-chair of the Clinical Advisory Network on Sex and Gender. She said, “Biological sex does matter when it comes to healthcare.

“It doesn’t mean trans people should not be treated with respect and have their health care needs met too, but there should be a recognition of the importance of biological sex to ensure women get the care they need.

“Women have particular reasons for wanting a sex-specific service because of the sense many have that they are vulnerable when men are present, or are being treated by male doctors. They should have the right to specify these things for the sake of privacy and a sense of safety.”

In an interview on Monday, Steve Barclay confirmed that “sex-specific language has now been fully restored to online health advice pages about cervical and ovarian cancer and the menopause. It is vital that women’s voices are heard in the NHS and the privacy, dignity and safety of all patients are protected.”

Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer made a similar stance earlier in the year, stating that his party would back single-sex wards based on biological sex.

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