Stonewall: Nurses and Midwives speak out


Hundreds of nurses and midwives have signed a letter calling for the Nursing and Midwifery Council and NHS trusts to withdraw from Stonewall’s Diversity Champions Programme and Equality Index.

These are a selection of comments explaining their reasons for signing.

This week, we published a letter calling on the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) to withdraw from Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme and Workplace Equality Index;

The NMC is the regulatory body for nurses, midwives and health visitors.

The letter also called upon:

“the four Chief Nurses of the UK to publicly support the withdrawal of NHS bodies and Trusts from the Stonewall Diversity Champions programme and to commit that all affiliations and policies requiring action or fulfilment by nurses be fully conversant with our Code.”

This letter, drafted by concerned nurses and other healthcare professionals, has already been signed by over 400 NMC registrants.

Many of them have left comments explaining their reasons for signing. We are publishing a selection here to show the concerns that these professionals have about Stonewall’s interventions in healthcare and how it is impeding them in carrying out their duties.

If you are a current, retired or pre-registration student you can add your name to this letter here.

You can read the fully-referenced version of the letter here.

You can read the full analysis here.

Nurses and midwives speak

I fully support the statement and ask the NMC to withdraw from the Stonewall scheme. It is shocking that public money was spent to endorse what is essentially a pressure group acting against the NMC Code.

Supporting or taking advice from Stonewall has the potential to bring the NMC and Nursing Profession into disrepute. The advice Stonewall give has been shown to be in direct contradiction of the Equality Act.

I believe that affiliation with Stonewall makes it impossible to uphold the NMC code of conduct. I am concerned by Stonewall’s misrepresentation of the law, particularly in relation to the exemptions in the Equality act 2010 which allows for single sex spaces including hospital wards. The use of inaccurate terminology and the removal of sex-based language such as woman, mother, breast feeding is both offensive to women, and confusing for those who are not native English speakers. Nurses will suffer reputational damage if not allowed to speak out on these important issues.

When nurses feel they cannot express their concerns for patients and their own welfare, then they cannot undertake their duties to the highest of standards and fall short in their duty to safeguard vulnerable patients and as advocates for those in their care. This may require them, for example, to ensure that male bodied patients who self-identify as female, are not placed within the same accommodation as female patients, which may help to prevent the male- bodied patient from committing an offence against females, thus protecting both groups of patients. This is basic good common sense which, above all else, is the basis of decision making and health and safety. So nurses are finding themselves having to make decisions which actually go against their natural better judgement.

Nurses in my mental health trust are required to affirm gender identity – consequently male bodied patients on female psychiatric wards, staff/patients unable to have frank conversation about risk, women being told no men on the ward is a further psychological harm to (often) traumatised women.

Women are a majority of the nursing workforce. We have to be recognised as women to support and protect our women patients.

Maternity care and midwifery must be woman centred in order to offer safe and effective care which honours women’s experiences of pregnancy, birth and motherhood. Inclusivity does not require removal of women and mothers from our language.

This is just so heartening to hear our profession providing such a logical analysis and standing up to say that Stonewall is not aligned to our professional standards. Women are being disregarded in Stonewall in my opinion. I am a lesbian and many of my friends (nursing and non-nursing) have withdrawn for many of the reasons cited ages ago.

I am a community psychiatric nurse. I am very concerned by my employer being part of Stonewall’s diversity champions scheme. I don’t feel I can say this directly without fear of disciplinary action.

As a retired midwife, I believe that language can and should be adapted for individual clients, but for example changing the word woman to people in official guidance (as recommended by Stonewall) can lead to harm, as seen in the RCM’s recent statement on co-sleeping (withdrawn after people pointed out that it was dangerous).

Trans people deserve high quality accessible healthcare. Women and girls are entitled to single sex spaces for reasons of dignity, privacy and safety. It is vital that both of these are upheld.

It is very worrying that an organising responsible for the accreditation of midwifery preregistration programmes use the language of ‘assigned sex as birth’. They must know that sex is observed and recorded, not assigned.

The words ‘woman’ and ‘mother’ are meaningful and intrinsic to maternity services. There are ways to be inclusive which do not require the erasure of the words woman, mother, breastfeeding.

Nurses are rarely offering ‘psychological therapy’, but we routinely have therapeutic interactions with service users. If these interactions are perceived to be ‘non-affirming’, nurses are vulnerable to disciplinary action, and under new proposals, also vulnerable to prosecution. With no protection from Trusts/NMC, I can only protect myself and my livelihood by affirming, even when I know this may be a risk to my patient.

It is difficult for practitioners to consider scientific evidence whilst their professional bodies/trusts continue to subscribe to Stonewall guidance.

Trans identifying people have rights and that is right but they should not supersede women’s rights.

I am delighted to have this opportunity to express my concerns to the NMC about their relationship with Stonewall… As a mental health nurse, I saw gradual progress in relation to the appropriate safeguarding women who were suffering from mental illness. It has distressed me, beyond measure, to witness those protections being undermined.

As health professionals, we need to promote evidence-based practice, and we need to stop the attempted erasing of women and their rights. Enough is enough.

I support the needs of trans people – but not to the eradication of women and women’s rights.

I feel I am unable to protect my female/women patients, and advocate for them without fear of recrimination.

Thank you SO MUCH for this

Heartfelt thanks for taking this action on behalf of women.

Add your name

If you are a current, retired or pre-registration student you can add your name to this letter here.

You can read the fully-referenced version of the letter here.

You can read the full analysis here.

Other articles

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Health care is a human right: Judith Green

WPUK position on Gillick Competence and Fraser Guidelines

We believe that it is important to share a range of viewpoints on women’s rights and advancement from different perspectives. WPUK does not necessarily agree or endorse all the views that we share.