New NHS guidelines: patients to be asked about their sexuality

The NHS has introduced some new controversial guidelines which will mean doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals will ask patients who are aged 16 or over about their sexual orientation.

Whilst the new guidelines applies to everyone aged 16 or over, patients will have the right not to answer the question. The NHS says that by choosing to provide any information regarding sexual orientation, it will not affect any care the patient receives, and  “no patient is discriminated”. However some may argue, why should this information provided by the patient matter, if in the end, the care the patient receives is not affected.

Previously, doctors would already know about the sexual orientation of some patients, especially those who were facing a medical condition where sexuality is relevant to it. However, under the newly introduced guidelines, questions about sexuality can be asked by the doctor even if its completely irrelevant to the condition.

The options patients will be able to choose from, regarding their sexual orientation are the following: heterosexual or straight, gay or lesbian, bisexual, other sexual orientation, not sure, not stated and not known.

The new guidelines have had very different responses and opinions from the population, making it a highly controversial topic. Many have been in support of the guidelines, as it will ensure that doctors are aware of other information the patient provides, which can prove to be useful in some situations – particularly regarding mental health conditions a patient faces. This means that if the patient is found later with any medical condition where sexuality is related to it, the information on sexual orientation previously provided by the patient would readily be available on the system, allowing for a more efficient and faster diagnosis and treatment.

On the other hand, many have argued that the question asked can be intrusive. Whilst the option to not state sexuality is still provided, some may be uncomfortable with the whole process of having to choose a particular option.

I see the new guidelines being helpful in particular situations to allow for a more efficient NHS, but is the introduction of these guidelines really that useful and important for the NHS to know?

Let me know what you think by posting your personal opinions in the comments section below, or by emailing me if you have any questions.

Mazyad Atassi.


Will machines in healthcare make surgeons obsolete?

After spending weeks researching, drafting, and discussing this topic with my peers and doctors, today marks my first publicly released article on this topic and on my blog.

I have chosen to investigate this question after seeing myself how sophisticated machinery are being used in hospitals, and this has made me, patients, prospective surgeons and doctors curious whether these machines are able to take over the major roles of a surgeon or a doctor in the future. Moreover, this idea of machines in healthcare making surgeons obsolete is trending currently as we are witnessing significant progression in technology, many of which applied to medicine.

The idea of machines making surgeons obsolete is already striking debate between different groups of people; some of who agree that this is very likely to happen in the future due to the frequent breakthroughs in the world of technology, and medicine – and others who disagree, predominantly due to the nature of machines never being able to reach the same complex and intelligent level as a human being. Today, we are lucky to have sophisticated machinery used in medicine to help assist through complicated procedures and operations. However up to now, there is no medical machine used in operations that can operate without the supervision of a surgeon or medical staff – so will we ever be able to develop a machine sophisticated enough to take over a surgeon’s position? The question targets medicine on a global scale and focuses on the revolution of medicine over the years to come. This is because the influence of the advancements in medical machinery will have a global effect on working surgeons; including whether the machines will make them obsolete or not. Naturally, More Economically Developed Countries (MEDC’s) countries are likely to adapt to the technological breakthroughs in medicine much faster than Less Economically Developed Countries (LEDC’s). This means, surgeons’ positions in work in relation to the development of medical machinery is likely to differ depending on the status of the country – however eventually it will have an effect on all surgeons, irrespective of the place of work.

With the recent boom in technological developments, the healthcare sector has been impacted positively allowing technology today to be heavily integrated into medicine. However up to now, there is no medical machine used in operations that can function without the supervision of a surgeon or medical staff, which strikes debate with the question. Evidence for the dominance of machines in surgical operations is growing, and the healthcare workforce patterns today are different from what they used to be over the previous years; this is predominately due to the introduction of numerous sophisticated surgical machinery, which have reduced the number of medical staff required for a given procedure. Spending on robotics is sharply increasing, as the demand for medical machinery is surging. Incorporating medical and surgical machinery today has improved treatment for patients, and created new methods for surgeons to perform operations. The Da Vinci surgical system is at the forefront of today’s technological medicine and is a prime example of what machines are capable of achieving; it demonstrates multiple features such as several robotic arms which enable it to function in several ways a surgeon wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

It is particularly important to recall that since the question raised focuses on future trends of healthcare, we are often using an inductive argument to advocate what may happen, however generalising from experience doesn’t necessarily suggest what can happen. We should recognise and appreciate the potential in machines, however machines, in the end, are no more than artificial intelligence created by humans. Therefore, after in depth research, it has become explicit that machines replicating the highly sophisticated system of the human mind, soul, and body and eventually making surgeons obsolete is almost virtually unfeasible.