The regulatory body for the medical professions in the UK has said that doctors cannot discrimate against groups of patients, such as gay men or lesbians.

The General Medical Council said that a PinkNews.co.uk report on its new guidelines, entitled Personal Beliefs and Medical Practice, was wrong to give the impression that doctors could decline fertility treatment on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Jane O’Brien, the GMC’s Head of Standards and Ethics said:

Personal Beliefs and Medical Practice emphasises the distinction between refusing to provide or refer a patient for a particular procedure – which may be acceptable – and refusing to treat a particular patient or group of patients, which would not.

“While we support doctors’ human right to hold personal beliefs and to practise in accordance with them, we expect doctors to be prepared to set aside their personal beliefs where this is necessary in order to provide care in line with GMC guidance.

Personal Beliefs and Medical Practice makes it clear that patient care must not be compromised because of the personal beliefs which all doctors have and which may affect their day-to-day practice.”

The new guidelines are expected to be controversial among activists on both sides of the abortion debate.

“The guidelines insist GPs must tell patients if they are pro-life and refer them to another medic,” reports WENN.

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, currently before Parliament, proposes new recognition of same-sex couples as legal parents of children conceived through the use of donated sperm, eggs or embryos.

At present the law requires that NHS fertility clinics take account of the “need for a father” when assessing women for treatment.

In practice this can lead to clinics deciding not to accept lesbians and those women instead using “DIY” methods in order to conceive.

Some clinics have a blanket ban on same-sex couples.