'Gay cure' therapies are still available on the NHS and need to be banned, says Tory MP Mike Freer

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The Government should introduce regulation to ban so-called “gay cure therapies” that purport to be able to change someone’s sexual orientation, an MP has said.

Mike Free, a Conservative, said the psychotherapy industry was thus far not regulated by statue and that the Government needed to “go further” to ensure that “quack” therapies were rooted out.

“It remains possible for people within the UK to be referred by an NHS professional to a psychotherapist for a so-called ‘gay cure’,” he said during a debate on the subject in Parliament’s Westminster Hall.

“Being gay is not a disaster, being gay is not an illness. To suggest otherwise is not only demeaning, it is medically wrong.”

Mr Freer, who is himself gay, said bogus supposed “therapies” offered by some practitioners including exorcism, riding a bike, and prayer.

He also said electric shock and nausea pain-aversion treatments were in use to try and alter sexuality. He claimed one Austrian doctor had offered experimental testicular transplants.

“I think it’s important to debunk the thought that such so-called cure therapies might be gentle … they are not gentle therapies,” he said.

“We all agree it’s harmful, we all agree it shouldn’t be done, and yet we can’t get it banned.”

Mike Freer speaking during the debate

Mainstream medical, scientific, and psychological opinion is that such treatments have no basis in science.

The psychotherapy sector is currently governed by a voluntary memorandum of understanding issued by the Government. 

David Cameron said in April that the Government could potentially “go further” if this approach, which he described as “pretty firm”, did not work.

Mr Freer called on Mr Cameron to make good this suggestion.

Research published by LGBT charity Stonewall in July found that one in ten health and social care workers had witnessed a colleague declare a belief in a “gay cure”.

In April last year then Lib Dem Health Minister Norman Lamb wrote to NHS England to seek assurances that the practices would never be available on the health service.

Labour MP Diana Johnson last year said ministers were ignoring the issue of the therapies availability on the NHS.

In response, a Department for Health spokesperson said at the time: “NHS funded therapies are provided for those who need them to help them manage a psychological problem.

“This could include people coming to terms with their sexuality. This is absolutely not the same as gay-to-straight “conversion” therapy, which we strongly oppose.

“Being gay is not an illness and it should never be treated as something which is curable, which is why we are proactively exploring ways of ensuring that ‘conversion’ therapy can never be funded by public money.”