How can GPs meet our needs as lesbian, gay and bisexual patients?

Publish Date: 08/10/2012

 

As Lesbian, gay and bisexual people we face considerable health inequalities and are disproportionately likely to suffer from poor sexual, mental and physical health, as well as increased levels of substance misuse. Yet the lack of sexual orientation monitoring by health services means there remains a distinct lack of information relating to our health and social care needs.

This lack of monitoring, means it's impossible to determine the extent of inequality of outcomes, and so there is little attention given to the specific needs of our LGB community.

The limited knowledge that we do have about our community’s mental health shows:

•      4 in 10 LGB people have made at least one attempt to self harm

•      3 in 5 LGB people have experienced a mental health issue in the last 5 years

•      2 in 3 LGB people have experienced depression, which is over 3 times higher than in the general population, and 1 in 2 LGB people have seen a counsellor or therapist

•      1 in 5 LGBT people has attempted suicide and young gay and bisexual men are over 6 times more likely to attempt suicide compared to their heterosexual peers.

GPs will usually assume that we are straight, leading to the wrong information being given and for us being forced to "come out" to our doctors.

A lesbian patient in Stockport shares her experience: "The GP at my surgery consistently and frequently assumes I am straight, ending up in embarrassed conversations when they realise their mistake. I feel I am treated abnormally and discriminated against regularly."

Recent research by the LGF found almost two-thirds of us felt their GP could improve the services offered to their LGB patients.

This can easily be remedied; using inclusive language, referring to "partner" rather than making assumptions about gender, ensuring LGB patients feel welcome by seeing LGB specific materials and providing us with LGB specific referral pathways.

In February 2011 the LGF launched Pride in Practice, a benchmarking tool that identifies GP surgeries that are fully committed to assuring LGB patients are treated fairly and able to discuss issues openly with healthcare providers.

If you would like to get your GP to sign up direct them to www.lgf.org.uk/prideinpractice