In the box below you can record your reflections on the issues arising from this scenario. What would you do if faced with this situation in your job, or how might you advise someone you manage? After submitting your reflections, you will be able to print them out for future reference and read Stonewall’s advice and guidance on this topic.
The first thing to notice is the woman’s confusion about why she is being asked about her sexual orientation when being invited for a smear test. She decided to phone and ask but not everyone will do this.
After the phone call the woman still seems dissatisfied, and we are left wondering whether she will actually fill in the form, or even attend her test.
Points to note:
Along with the letter, the surgery might have included a better explanation of the rationale for and benefits from monitoring, and details of the surgery’s confidentiality policy.
The receptionist should have explained exactly who would have access to the information: the doctor carrying out the smear test? The administrative staff? How would the information be stored? Assurances about confidentiality are meaningless unless you can state who has access to the information.
Finally the receptionist should have clarified that answering the question was optional and there was an option to tick “prefer not to say” It is vital that people have the option to tick “prefer not to say” so that anyone who does not feel comfortable providing their information are not put off using the service all together.
Monitoring is vitally important to understanding the needs of your service users and identifying any issues which may be affecting certain groups. It doesn’t have to be difficult, but it is important that it is done well so that service users don’t feel confused or anxious about disclosing personal information. It is really important that all staff involved, and particularly frontline staff, feel confident and equipped to answer any questions and explain why it is important to your organisation.
If you are planning to implement equalities monitoring in your service, consider how you would communicate with service users, their families and carers, and members of your team. Think of a couple of examples that are relevant to your service that you can use when asked why you are monitoring. Stonewall Scotland’s guide to Making the Most of Monitoring may help you. If you can’t think of any examples, speak to your colleagues, equality lead or HR team to get a better understanding of how monitoring works in your service.