Get it right: Names, pronouns and record keeping

There is research to show that trans people are more likely to describe their interactions with healthcare professionals as good when their identities are respected or affirmed, and that they greatly appreciate having their medical documentation changed to reflect their gender. (Heng, A. et al. (2018) Transgender peoples’ experiences and perspectives about general healthcare: A systematic review, International Journal of Transgenderism, 19(4), pp. 359–378)

As discussed in the previous section, the experience of being misgendered can be deeply distressing for trans people. The same applies to the use of a trans person’s previous name, if they have changed it.

Here are some things that you can do to make sure you’re getting it right for your trans patients:

  • Share your pronouns when you introduce yourself, this creates an opportunity for patients to tell you their pronouns if they wish to.
  • Use the correct pronouns and name for a patient regardless of whether they’re there or not. This includes in their notes and in letters to other clinicians, unless they’ve asked you to do something differently.
  • If you’re not sure of a patient’s pronouns or gender and you need to know, ask them. It’s better to ask than to get it wrong.
  • Apologise if you get a patient’s name or pronouns wrong, then correct yourself. It’s better to do this than pretend it didn’t happen.
  • Avoid unnecessarily gendered language in documents and on paperwork.
  • Make sure forms are inclusive:
    • Offer people the option to tick that they’re non-binary rather than male or female, and provide an ‘other’ box to ensure that culturally-specific terms (such as hijra or two-spirit) can be used too.Provide Mx as an option for a person’s title.
    • Avoid having questions or sections specific to people of a certain gender, make them specific to the body part by using additive language. For example ‘men or other people with a prostate’.
  • Make sure your databases allow you to record if someone is non-binary or if their gender is not the same as the marker on their NHS record, and find a work-around if they don’t.
  • Keep a record of patients’ pronouns – for inpatients, this could be in the form of a sticker at the top of their notes.
  • Change the name and gender marker on your patients’ records when they ask you to, and remember that failing to do so may be unlawful under GDPR. Do not change a patient’s name or gender marker on their medical record without asking them first, always seek their consent.

Errors or omissions

Is there something missing from this page? Have you spotted something that isn’t correct? E-mail to let us know.

A disclaimer: TransActual do not provide medical, health, or legal advice. The content of this page is intended for information purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment from a medical professional. It is not a substitute for advice from a legal professional. We strongly suggest you consult a healthcare professional or legal professional for specific advice about your situation. TransActual do not advocate or recommend the purchase of any specific product and we do not endorse or guarantee the credentials or appropriateness of any health care provider, any product or any provider of insurance and legal services.

Page last updated:

Skip to content