Gender law reforms will not prevent women accessing same-sex doctors

Patients will still be able to be seen by a same-sex health professional if requested under gender recognition reform proposals, MSPs have heard.

Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison told the Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee that most NHS staff would respect patients’ wishes.

The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill has caused controversy in recent years, with opponents raising concerns about how it could affect the rights of women and girls.

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A person would only be required to live in their acquired gender for three months, followed by a further three-month reflection period – as opposed to the current two year rules.

Scottish Government minister Shona Robison said there will be no bar to women accessing same-sex medics Pic: PA

The legislation also proposed dropping the minimum age to apply for a gender recognition certificate (GRC) to 16 from 18.

Conservative MSP Pam Gosal raised concerns around section 22 of the proposed Bill which protects an individual’s right not to disclose they have a GRC.

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She said people who want – or need to for religious purposes – to be seen by a biological female might feel like they cannot access healthcare services.

“Section 22 interferes with religion, for instance where it goes against a woman’s religious practices to be touched by a man – for example going into a doctor’s surgery and in the practice you can ask for a female doctor. That is quite normal.

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“However, given an individual with a GRC does not have to disclose this, there is a possibility that a woman could end up being seen by a biological male.

“I have been made aware of this issue and also the concerns people are having with the existing legislation but with this GRA reform it could be more widespread.”

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Ms Robison said: “The NHS does try, where it can, to give people their wishes in terms of if they want a man or a woman in terms of care, whether its personal care delivered by social care staff or whether it is a smear test, or whatever the procedure.

“If a patient specifically requests a doctor or nurse of the same gender, then of course, the NHS will try to accommodate that as far as possible.

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“There are obviously never any guarantees for that because of the availability of staff with appropriate skills to manage the patient’s condition.”