Nurses have urged their regulator, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), to pull out of Stonewall’s diversity scheme and index, citing fears about being disciplined if they disagreed with the charity’s views on gender identity.
The letter, organised by women’s rights campaign group Woman’s Place UK, has been signed by more than 400 nurses and midwives.
It states that Stonewall’s recent activities “do not align with the values and standards of [the NMC’s] code and undermine the ability of nurses to work within [the] code”.
LGBT charity Stonewall has come under fire for its views on gender identity, in particular its advocacy for access to single-sex spaces to be based on the gender a person identifies with, rather than the sex they were assigned at birth.
Many high-profile organisations, including the BBC, Ofsted and the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, have recently left Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme – a paid-for scheme which employers join to receive resources and information on how to be LGBT inclusive – after some raised concerns about the charity’s stance on trans rights.
The nurses’ letter raises six areas of concern with the NMC’s involvement in Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme and Workplace Equality Index, which ranks organisations based on their achievements and progress on LGBT inclusivity.
Stonewall and trans rights
The areas of concern include allegations that Stonewall has “misinterpreted” the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 and has “erroneously informed scheme members that access to single-sex spaces is based on ‘gender identity’ and ‘self-ID’”, which are not recognised within UK law.
It is also concerned about Stonewall’s advocacy for access to single-sex spaces to be based on gender identity instead of sex, which the letter says has “led to many NHS accommodation policies which undermine the ability of nurses to work within our code and advocate for and safeguard women patients”.
The letter also highlights the potential for an employee to be reprimanded if they disagree with Stonewall’s views. Stonewall is currently being sued by Allison Bailey, a lesbian barrister who alleges that Stonewall pressurised her chambers to sanction her for speaking out and defending the rights of women and girls, in particular lesbians.
The letter concludes: “The NMC requires registrants to always practise in line with the best available evidence and practice; this is key to good, safe care and public protection. We as registrants have a right to expect the same standard from our regulatory body.
“We call upon the NMC to withdraw from Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme and Workplace Equality Index.
“We call upon the four Chief Nurses of the UK to publicly support the withdrawal of NHS bodies and trusts from Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme and to commit that all affiliations and policies requiring action or fulfilment by nurses be fully conversant with our code.”
Nurses who signed the letter raised fears about disciplinary action and a desire to ensure that female patients were protected. A community psychiatric nurse said: “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.”
Andrea Sutcliffe, chief executive and registrar at the NMC, said: “We’re aware of Woman’s Place UK’s letter, although it hasn’t been sent to us directly yet. We understand it’s open for signatures until 22 December. We will, of course, respond once we’ve received the letter and had time to consider it.”
A Stonewall spokesperson said: “This petition is littered with inaccuracies and misinformation. It is disgraceful that these groups continue to misrepresent our Diversity Champions programme, which simply provides support to organisations to build inclusive workplace environments. Ultimately, it is lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer people who are harmed by these kinds of baseless attacks.”