THE Royal College of Nursing has issued guidelines advising nurses not to address women as ‘ladies’ or old people as ‘pensioners’ to avoid causing offence.
Members are also advised to say ‘alcohol misuser’ rather than ‘alcoholic’, while ‘mankind’ should be replaced with ‘humankind’. Wards should be ‘staffed’, not ‘manned’, and nurses should avoid using any sexuality term as a collective noun, for example ‘gays’. They should also ‘be sensitive to people who are non-binary and use their preferred pronoun’.
Presumably no one will ask women whether they would prefer to be called ‘ladies’ – such modes of address will simply be dropped, and according to trans orthodoxy, no one’s ‘preferred gender’ can be presumed – indeed, it may be counted a hate crime to do so – therefore pronouns will have to be omitted altogether. Quite apart from the fact that ‘trans women’ might actually like to be addressed as ‘ladies’, asking everyone for their ‘preferred pronouns’ might elicit some interesting responses from the Saturday night alcohol misuser.
As the Telegraph’s Celia Walden points out, the RCN has since ‘insisted the guide is more for print, email and other digital channels than a general instruction’, though this ‘doesn’t make it any less pernicious to the medical industry as a whole’. One NHS nurse told her: ‘PC culture means no longer being allowed to use one word in our reports, but two, three or sometimes four. And the longer the report takes to write, the less time you have with your patient.’
This is a valid point, and yet when last week I visited a 78-year-old relative admitted to a general hospital after a dislocation (which happened in his care home; the cause has not been determined), my problem was not one of being ‘misgendered’ or otherwise offended by slurs on my sexuality, or by being addressed in ‘archaic’ terms, but by unintelligibility on the one hand, and on the other not being addressed at all – just silence and apparent indifference. My relative has a speech problem, which was more severe than usual, but being so well acquainted with him I could at least understand some of what he was saying, so I expected someone to ask for help in translation. However, although the nursing assistants spoke kindly to me (while efficiently performing all the nursing care in the four-bed ward catering for dementia patients), I found it hard to understand what they were saying, since they were all of foreign extraction. I approached the sister-in-charge, who showed no curiosity about my relative’s communication problems, merely commenting that he was ‘very noisy’ and ‘out of his comfort zone’. Her English was perfect – and no, she was not rushed off her feet – the ward was fully staffed.
The RCN would no doubt argue that they simply wish to show more consideration to patients, but they have clearly taken advice from the trans lobby in writing this advice, since every other consideration bows to its demands. As Ms Walden notes, the guidance advises against saying ‘people with disabilities’ rather than ‘disabled people’, but when a ‘person with disabilities’ needs a little more care and patience it is not forthcoming.
The NHS’s ‘speech problem’ is more about them not looking up from their screens in the reception area on the arrival of a new patient, or even during consultations. The problem is not misgendering patients or saying ‘the elderly’ instead of ‘elderly people’, but not treating them as people. The problem is not using offensive language but giving patients the silent treatment, and this guidance will only make matters worse. Until the RCN can stop speaking nonsense it might be better for all ‘humankind’ if they took a vow of silence.