HEALTH chiefs say guidelines around gender-neutral language will help "treat everyone who uses our services as an individual".

Staff at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust have been given suggestions on new terms they can use including “chestfeeding” and “human milk”.

They will be used alongside – not instead of – traditional terms to make places like the Royal Sussex County Hospital, in Brighton, more inclusive.

The trust, the first in the country to issue such guidelines, said that "we’re simply encouraging staff to use the individual’s preferred terminology".

And added that "we’re not asking anyone to stop using the usual language surrounding maternity services but suggesting additional gender-neutral language they could use, if needed".

Chief nurse, Carolyn Morrice said: "We know the vast majority of our midwifery service users are women and we are not changing the language we know they are comfortable with.

"For example, we will continue to call them pregnant woman and talk about breast feeding.

"What we are doing is adding to the language we use to make it as inclusive as possible and to ensure that people who may identify in a different way feel our services are accessible.

“Adding to the language we use is something people who use our services have been asking for, for some time.

"Our aim will always be to treat everyone who uses our services as an individual, providing care that is personal to them, that meets their needs and uses language they are comfortable with."

READ MORE: New gender-neutral terms for maternity staff - 'chestfeeding' and 'human milk'

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust is the first in the country to use what it calls the “additive use of gender-inclusive language”.

A policy document on the trust's website gives context for the guidelines as well as providing examples of language that people might use for their own anatomy - including the term "front hole" rather than vagina.

The document says: “Some individuals may have preferred terminology for their own anatomy, or for activities that they use their body for. These should be respected and used wherever possible."

The decision was taken following discussions with local, national and international experts in trans and non-binary healthcare as well as trans and non-binary parents who use the trust’s services and in the wider community.

The document says: “If we only use gender-neutral language, we risk marginalising or erasing the experience of some of the women and people who use our services.

“We understand the fear of erasure; however, marginalising other groups because they are rare will not improve care for women.”

The language changes do not apply when discussing or caring for individuals in a one-on-one capacity, the document says.

Instead, language and documentation should reflect the gender identity of the individual.

Some of the terms being suggested included:

  • “Breast/chestfeeding”, in place of “breastfeeding”;
  • “Human milk” or “breast/chestmilk” or “milk from the feeding mother or parent”, in place of “breastmilk”;
  • “Maternal and parental” or “maternal/parental”, in place of “maternal”;
  • “Woman or person”, in place of “woman”.