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Hospital cancelled my surgery after I complained about transgender nurse

Teresa Steele made the same-sex request after a transwoman nurse entered her pre-op examination room uninvited – Geoff Pugh for The Telegraph

A woman whose surgery was cancelled because she demanded same-sex care has claimed she could have been killed by the delay.

Teresa Steele was informed over email that her operation at the Princess Grace, a private hospital in central London, which specialises in women’s health, had been scrapped as a result of her request that only biological women be involved in her intimate care and later developed an abscess.

The former solicitor made the request after a transgender nurse entered her pre-op examination room uninvited. The hospital originally accused her of discriminating against the nurse but has since apologised for breaching Ms Steele’s privacy and dignity.

The abscess, which she believes may have been caused by the stress of the incident, meant that her re-scheduled operation could not be completed, leaving her in pain for months.

She alleges that she was the victim of discrimination and suffered direct harm because of The Princess Grace’s decision to cancel her operation but has said that she will waive any legal action if the hospital puts in place protections for other patients.

Ms Steele is calling on the HCA, one of the UK’s largest private healthcare companies, that owns The Princess Grace and also provides services to the NHS, to change their policies to ensure that vulnerable patients are given protections based on their sex-based rights.

This includes a guarantee that patients can request care from medics of the same biological sex as them.


Ms Steele, whose surgery was only rescheduled after a public outcry including a petition with thousands of signatures, told the company: “It is not a personal issue for me. Since my experience with HCA, I have been contacted by many women patients who are now too afraid to speak out.

“It is particularly distressing to hear from disabled women, including a young woman who is paralysed and has been forced by a private agency to accept intimate care from men under threat of her care being withdrawn.”

Ms Steele has tried to work with the HCA for the last ten months but has decided to speak out after it refused to commit to a time frame for a review of its policies.

The HCA has worked with the NHS for more than a decade and next year is due to open a £100 million private hospital in partnership with the University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust.

Ms Steele was due to have a complicated abdominal operation at The Princess Grace on Oct 10 last year and, in her admission forms, she said she required single-sex lavatories and bathrooms and would not discuss pronouns.

On Oct 6, as she underwent her pre-op assessment, a trans nurse not involved in her care entered her private examination room. Ms Steele still believes that she was “targeted” because she had expressed gender-critical views.

Breach of privacy and dignity

Later that day she sent a complaint demanding same-sex care and an assurance that after her operation a male – or a transwoman – would only enter her room with her prior agreement.

Emails between staff, seen by The Telegraph, said that they “perceive the patient’s request and rationale as a discrimination on gender and sex against… hospital employees”.

At 7.36pm the following evening, which was a Friday, Maxine Estop Green, the hospital’s CEO,  emailed her notifying her that “we do not share your beliefs and are not able to adhere to your requests” and therefore the operation was being cancelled.

Ms Steele did not see the email and only found out about the cancellation when her prescription did not arrive. She tried to contact Ms Estop Green but got her out of office all weekend.

The CEO later admitted that Ms Steele’s privacy and dignity were breached when the trans nurse entered her room and Ms Estop Green said she “sincerely apologise[d]” and recognised “how unsettling this must have been”.

The hospital maintains that the nurse who “inadvertently” entered her private room would not have seen any of her pre-assessment forms or her gender-critical views.

‘Mass protest’

A senior HCA executive concluded that it was “extremely unfortunate” that Ms Steele discovered the cancellation in this “unacceptable way” and “apologise[d] for the understandable distress this has caused”.

They say that the reason that her operation was cancelled was that they could not guarantee same-sex care at short notice.

“What followed was a mass protest by women’s rights activists. It’s a testament to the power of the women’s rights movement in the UK,” Ms Steele said.

Her operation was rescheduled for Oct 31 at the HCA’s Wellington Hospital. When surgeons began, they realised that she had developed a major abscess which meant that they were unable to complete the surgery.

It had not shown up on the original pre-operations scans and the symptoms only started in the days after the original surgery was cancelled.

“I was very traumatised and on the point of collapse following the cancellation,” she said. “There was a sudden and observable deterioration in my health. An abscess that had not been visible on scans only a short time earlier had suddenly appeared. They endangered my life by cancelling that operation. I could have died of sepsis.”

The surgery could not be completed until February of this year.

‘Inhumane and degrading’

Ms Steele said: “That second surgery has taken me months to recover from. I now have unnecessary deep scarring and my mobility was impacted for months; as a result, I developed a back problem as a knock-on effect of a protracted convalescence. The second surgery has really affected my long-term health.”

However, she has put any legal action on pause and offered to waive it completely if the HCA agrees to change its policy to recognise that sex is a protected characteristic under equality laws and to guarantee same-sex care.

She believes that forcing women who have not given their consent to have intimate care from biological males – including those who identify as women – is a breach of their human rights and subjecting them to “inhumane and degrading treatment”.

It also discriminates “against religious women who are not allowed to be in a state of undress around men”, she has warned the hospital.

A spokeswoman for The Princess Grace Hospital said: “The privacy and dignity of our patients is incredibly important, and we are in the final stages of reviewing our policy on this. We have invited Ms Steele, alongside others, to provide their views and insights to help inform these updates.

“We remain committed to always accommodating patient requests where we safely can do so. In rare circumstances, we may need to cancel or postpone a procedure to give us more time to ensure we can meet these requests. We would always do this prioritising patient safety and the urgency of their care and look to reschedule this as soon as we have been able to fully discuss their individual needs.”

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