Keir Starmer suggests trans women use hospital ‘side rooms’ instead of women’s wards

Keir Starmer has suggested that trans women use hospital ‘side rooms’ instead of being allowed to use women’s wards.

The Labour leader said that, given the UK government intends to ban transgender women from female single-sex wards, trans people can be put in single-bed rooms.

Side rooms are often preserved for individuals who need to be isolated either because of an infection or susceptibility to infection, possibly because of a compromised immune system or after major surgery.

Speaking on LBC, Starmer took a call from a listener in Greenwich, in South London, who confronted him on Labour’s pledge to exclude transgender women from single-sex spaces. Host Nick Ferrari then asked whether he would be allowed to enter a women’s ward if he identified as a woman, to which the Labour leader replied: “You would be accommodated, but not in a woman’s ward.”

When pressed further about where a trans person would be put, he added: “Well, hospitals already do this, there are ways this can be done. Lots of wards have side rooms.”

‘If I was identifying as a woman, would I be allowed to be on a women’s ward?’
‘Lots of wards have side rooms…’
 
Keir Starmer highlights ‘side rooms’ in NHS hospitals as a way of accommodating transgender people.@NickFerrariLBC pic.twitter.com/YUHSUukpi4

— LBC (@LBC) June 18, 2024

After Ferrari expressed surprise, Starmer pointed out that he had spent “quite a lot of time in hospitals” and believed it was possible.

“Many, many wards have the traditional beds laid out in that way, that are single-sex,” he said. “Many wards these days have side rooms for general use. The rule about single-sex wards, or the policy, is already there. The only reason there’s any issue these days is because the government has lost control of our hospitals.”

Side rooms are not typically given to hospitalised patients who aren’t prone to infections or in critical condition unless patients pay a fee. A typical private side room costs £139 per night, according to the NHS Bedfordshire hospitals website, although prices tend to vary across England.

Starmer did not clarify how putting trans patients in individual rooms squared with his pledge to minimise pressure on the health service. There is no record of any formal complaint being made in an NHS hospital about the presence of a trans woman in a single-sex female hospital ward.

The suggestion that trans women be banned from women’s wards was first aired last year when Steve Barclay, then the health secretary, said it was “common sense” to do so.

Labour has made no effort to oppose the policy, and the party’s health spokesman, Wes Streeting, has expressed support for the idea, saying he wanted to help protect the “integrity” of single-sex wards.

Some months later, he said he no longer believes trans men are men, and trans women are women.

“If you’d asked me a few years ago, I would have said ‘trans men are men, trans women are women, some people are trans, get over it, let’s move on, this is all blown out of proportion’. Now I sort of sit and reflect and think there are lots of complexities,” Streeting – likely to be health secretary if Labour wins the general election – said.

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