Health Minister, Norman Lamb, has described gay conversion therapy as abhorrent and stated that it has no place in the modern society. He has asked NHS England for assurances that general practitioners are not making referrals for this type of treatment.
Norman Lamb is the minister for care and support and has stated that this treatment is based on the false premise that something is wrong with you if you are gay and that he wants to eradicate this line of thinking.
Mr Lamb’s response was to written requests from cross-party MPs that tougher measures, including a ban, should be placed on gay conversion therapy.
The minister held a round-table meeting with representatives from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Stonewall, the gay pressure group, and others who have concerns about counselling used to persuade or help those attracted to the same sex to eradicate or bury their feelings.
There are currently no up-to-date or reliable figures on the use of this form of counselling. However, a survey done during 2009 where 1300 mental health professionals participated indicated that in excess of 200 had offered help to at least one client to try and reduce the feelings they had for another person of the same sex. One third had been referred for therapy by a general practitioner and around 40% were treated in the NHS.
Norman Lamb has stated that he is not of the opinion that referrals should be made to NHS professionals, however, the size of the NHS could allow for this to happen unseen. He did not consider a ban on the therapy as an option. He felt that this would be inappropriate as some people will need help to come to terms with their sexuality and it was very important to not make doctors or therapists feel uneasy about counselling someone in this type of situation. People should not fear prosecution.
Mr Lamb has been placed under pressure from MPs and other people to take a harder stand. There have been calls for statutory regulation of psychotherapists. This could lead to possible disciplinary action being taken against anyone who is involved in gay conversion therapy.
During a debate in the House of Commons last year, Stephen Gilbert, the Liberal Democrat MP, said that in this day and age, no gay, transgender, lesbian or bisexual individual should have access to this type of voodoo psychology. The government should rather be offering services which give them confidence and offer support regarding their sexuality.
Sandra Osborne, the Labour MP, has stated that conversion therapy is a very present and real danger in the UK. It is more than simply a problem among the religious fundamentalists. This is an issue for the professional sector and the NHS, and not just about the freedom of choice. She stated that if LGBT patients are pushed into therapy by peer pressure or are referred to conversion therapists by professionals, then this is really not ‘free choice’ at all.
The MPs who sent written requests to Lamb have called for the government to do more. They say that it is not enough to simply warn professionals against gay conversion therapy – professionals should be offered training to aid patients who are concerned about their sexuality.
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