NHS England pauses plans for gender inclusive training in maternity

SoR concerned as sonographers, radiographers, and service users impacted by decision

Published: 17 February 2023 Obstetrics and Gynaecology

The Society of Radiographers (SoR) is concerned at the news that NHS England has paused its plans to pilot a programme that would deliver training and resources to maternity units to “improve inclusion of trans and non-binary people accessing maternity services”.

Radiographers and sonographers want to provide parent-centred care for all who attend NHS maternity services. Health professionals know that how they communicate can have a lasting impact on parental experiences, parental mental health and potentially on their child’s health and  development.

A report in 2022 found that 30% of trans and non-binary people did not access support from either the NHS or private practice during pregnancy. Of those who did attend, 28% said they were “not treated with dignity and respect.” It is clear that more education is needed to equip healthcare professionals with the skills and knowledge needed to open up communication and learn how best  to deliver individualised care.

'Healthcare professionals cannot pause care'

Despite the NHS choosing to pause its training, healthcare professionals cannot pause the care they deliver to  trans and non-binary people. SoR members recognise the need to be informed and educated to deliver the most appropriate care, in line with professional standards of conduct performance and ethics and Government guidance.

SoR members want to assure people who may be fearful of accessing healthcare that they can attend without fear of ignorance, judgement, or discrimination. Professional training is designed to equip healthcare professionals with the skills they need to make confident, informed and reasoned decisions about the care they deliver.

The SoR supports continuing the conversation about educating healthcare professionals and supports initiatives such as the Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals maternity protocol, Perinatal Care for Trans and Non-Binary People.

Appropriate training is key

In light of recent reports from independent maternity reviews such as those by Donna Ockenden and Bill Kirkup, there is a clear need to develop safe, respectful and individualised maternity care for all users. The need for appropriate training on how best to listen and learn from service users about the positive impact education can have on healthcare inequalities is key to providing personalised care.

The SoR calls on the Government and NHS England to work with stakeholders, including maternity staff, professional bodies, and service user groups to develop a framework for educating healthcare professionals to increase their confidence in developing dialogue with trans and non-binary people and improving everyone’s experience of maternity care.

The SoR has published its own guidance to improve understanding of the complexities associated with the health and care needs of those with gender diversity and those with diversity in their physical sex characteristics: Inclusive pregnancy status guidelines for ionising radiation: Diagnostic and therapeutic exposures.

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