Has NHS Wales been captured by extremists?

The claim that the NHS has been captured by extremists sounds alarmist. Evidence suggests otherwise. Last week, former NHS Trust chief executive Kate Grimes outlined her concerns in an article for the Health Service Journal (HSJ).

She said:

My concerns are three-fold. First, and most importantly, Stonewall’s influence is undermining our ability to keep our patients safe. Secondly, it stifles free speech and creates a culture of fear amongst some staff. Thirdly, it gives misleading and potentially unlawful advice, opening up NHS organisations to litigation and reputational damage.

Loss of same sex spaces and medical data

Kate Grimes noted that:

  1. Stonewall argues for the removal of same sex spaces. It promulgates the false notion that any man who identifies as a woman is legally entitled to access women only spaces. This has been built into NHS policy in England [and Wales] since 2019. Female patients no longer have access to single sex accommodation in wards or bathrooms.
  2. Female patients risk sharing private space with unknown men at a vulnerable time in their lives. Religious customs are ignored. The censoring of discussion together and the impression of legitimacy provided by the Stonewall scheme means that other, more dangerous changes have been introduced. There has been no discussion of the potential risks.
  3. We no longer collect reliable data on biological sex. This impacts research. Children under 16 who identify as trans may be given completely new medical records and NHS numbers showing their assumed sex. This can have life-threatening consequences for them. Meanwhile the High Court has had to intervene to stop the NHS giving children as young as ten who identify as trans experimental drugs. These can have devastating effects on their health.

Impacts in Wales

Wales is no different. Data is increasingly collected on the basis of gender rather than sex, challenges to the ideology of lobby groups and activists lead to threats of disciplinary action. The rights of men who identify as women are routinely prioritized over those of women and girls.

Public Health Wales guidelines, for example, require trans people to be ‘accommodated according to their presentation: the way they dress, and their current names and pronouns’, regardless of whether this accords ‘with the sex appearance of the chest or genitalia’. This edict applies to ‘toilet facilities, wards, outpatient departments, accident & emergency or other health and social care facilities, including where these are single sex environments’.

The language of this report is directly copied from guidance from GIRES, an organisation ‘to improve the lives of trans and gender diverse people of all ages, including those who are non-binary and non-gender.’

Lack of analysis

Merched Cymru, along with a number of concerned clinicians, wrote to (then) Health Minister Vaughan Gething. We raised concerns about an online GP Gender Diversity module published by Health Education and Improvement Wales.

We pointed to the lack of critical analysis and almost complete absence of credible evidence supporting many contentious statements. For example, the module quotes alarming trans suicide statistics – ‘as high as 70 – 80%’. These figures have been repeatedly discredited, including by a leading researcher who commented that it is ‘unfortunate’ when “research is used by non-scientists in the context of their own agendas.”

The module encourages GPs to take an ‘affirmation-only’ approach to young people presenting with gender distress. It states that ‘while a child’s self-expression might well change over time, the only way to avoid damaging their well-being is to embrace their identification and how they navigate the gendered world in the moment’.

It downplays any consideration of co-morbidities or trauma. Keira Bell’s case reveals the dangers of this approach.

In addition, the report has advice which clearly breaches the Equality Act 2010. It states ‘A patient does not require a GRC to be placed in single sex ward concordant with their gender identity’.

The module has now been withdrawn ‘for review’. It should never have been placed in the public domain.

‘Conversion therapy’

We have similar concerns about the proposed ban on so-called conversion therapy. Transgender Trend argue that:

The addition of ‘gender identity’ to any policy on ‘gay conversion therapy’ leaves therapists with no option but to agree with a patient that they are really the opposite sex, foreclosing any possibility of exploration of feelings and meanings, or underlying issues/mental health problems that may have lead to a cross-sex identity, for fear of being accused of ‘conversion therapy.’ This puts children and young people particularly at risk of progressing to a medical transition with lifetime consequences they may later regret.

The proposed ban could criminalise counsellors who consider alternative factors that might contribute to a young person’s sense of distress. It would outlaw any approach that allowed for the (highly likely) possibility that the patient would, post puberty, come to terms with their biological sex and sexual orientation. Some 85% of young people do just that.

Evidence ignored

We sent Vaughan Gething, NHS Wales Director Andrew Goodall and Chief Medical Officer Dr Frank Atherton a paper. It stated:

Children and young people with gender dysphoria need and deserve supportive, compassionate, and evidence-based care. As the Society for Evidence-based Gender Medicine argue, by conflating ethical psychotherapy with conversion therapy, the proposed legislation will put that care, and gender non-conforming young people, at serious risk.

We received a dismissive letter in response. Welsh Government seem determined to go ahead with this legislation.

Our new Health Minister Eluned Morgan must prioritise evidence-based healthcare over compliance with the demands of political lobby groups.