Senior NHS leaders demand apology for ex-hospital CEO’s anti-trans tirade

Senior NHS leaders are demanding that the Health Service Journal apologise for the “harm” caused by an anti-trans editorial it published on 11 June.

The HSJ, which describes itself as the “leading resource for healthcare leaders, published an opinion piece written by former NHS trust chief executive Kate Grimes which claimed that the health service “has been well and truly captured by what some now describe as an extremist trans lobby group”.

An open letter penned by cisgender NHS leaders says that the article, titled “Working with Stonewall is no longer compatible with NHS values”, was an example of “framing one oppressed community against another in a debate without consideration for the potential harm or negative impact on the wellbeing of a community”.

In her piece Grimes contended that “female patients no longer have access to single sex accommodation in wards or bathrooms”, branded life-saving puberty-blocking medication for trans young people “experimental drugs that can have devastating effects”, and said that working with LGBT+ charity Stonewall “places the rights of trans people above those of women, religious minorities and LGB people”. She also suggested trans women are ‘men identifying as women’.

More than 50 senior NHS leaders responded by saying that while “equality is often framed by some commentators and sections of the media as a debate of competing rights” this way of discussing issues “does not further equality for either group, but rather protects the status quo”.

“The reality is both women’s rights as a whole and trans and non-binary people’s rights are controlled by those in the positions of most power and influence, who are usually not cisgender women, not trans people and not non-binary people either,” the NHS leaders said in a statement.

Cisgender NHS leaders vow to be ‘intentional about trans and non-binary inclusion’

The continued: “As a group of cisgender leaders in the NHS we continue to see groups and individuals contributing to a hostile environment for trans and non-binary people, and sadly even more who have not spoken out to oppose those voices and affirm their support for trans and non-binary people,” the open letter says.

“We are writing this now because we feel the effects of this hostility in the fear and anxiety of our trans and non-binary staff and patients.”

The signatories to the open letter also commit to making NHS organisations more inclusive and being “intentional about trans and non-binary inclusion”, taking steps to better support trans and non-binary service users, and working with the Trans NHS Staff Network to develop a “concrete plan of action for supporting and affirming trans and non-binary colleagues working across the NHS in the current trans hostile environment”.

The letter has been signed by more than 50 senior NHS leaders since it was published last night (3 August), including Kate Jarman, the director of corporate affairs at Milton Keynes University Hospital; Helen Ray, the chief executive of the North East Ambulance Service; Ruth Picknett-Powell, the clinical delivery manager for mental health services at NHS England; Duncan Craig, CEO of Survivors Manchester; and Emma Valentine, the allies lead at NHS England’s LGBT+ Staff Network.

Health Service Journal editor responds to call for an apology for anti-trans article

The group of NHS leaders noted that the editor of the HSJ, Alastair McLellan, later said on social media that “he would welcome trans and non-binary people contacting him to ‘join the debate’”.

But there is not a debate to be had in the NHS that sets one group’s rights in opposition to another’s,” the open letter continues.

“[We] call collectively on the HSJ to apologise for the harm and impact they have had on trans and non-binary people, following their recent publication of an opinion piece challenging trans and non-binary rights.”

Alastair McLellan, editor of the HSJ, told PinkNews that the publication “runs comment articles on a wide range of topics” and the views expressed “do not necessarily reflect HSJ’s editorial line”.

“When deciding whether to run a comment piece, we simply ask: is this an issue of interest to HSJ’s readers and is the author a credible examiner of that issue?” McLellan said. 

“The fact that Kate Grimes’ article was the most commented on in HSJ’s 20-year digital history underlines that it fulfilled the first criteria.

“Ms Grimes credibility comes from the fact that she is a former NHS trust chief executive, was chosen as one of HSJ’s LGBT role models in 2014 by judges including Stonewall’s then head of policy, and has a long history of activism.

“Her piece was heavily criticised by many HSJ readers and we were taken to task for publishing it. However, the article received just as much praise and generated a large number of unsolicited messages of thanks for publication from healthcare leaders and others.

“I asked many times for critics of the article and our decision to publish to write something for HSJ to set out their concerns.

“I had just two replies – and published one of the articles as soon as I could.”