Why we need to campaign for excellence in lesbian, gay and bisexual healthcare!

Publish Date: 30/01/2012

A large range of publications have picked up on the launch of The LGF’s and NHS North West’s new project Pride in Practice which encourages excellence in lesbian, gay and bisexual healthcare including: The Pink Paper, Manchester Evening News, Management in Practice, Anglican Mainstream, Christian Institute, Gay Star News and more.

Some publications and readers have been more supportive than others, and this article addresses some of the negative concerns that have been voiced about the project.

Management in Practice website asked their readers “Whether they agreed with this initiative being rolled out to practices across the UK?”

Some felt that the project was “insulting” to GP’s and their staff, and said that they already treated all their patients with “dignity, empathy and equality.”

The Lesbian & Gay Foundation did post a response on Thursday January 26th  to the comments, to reassure these healthcare professionals about the validity and need for this work, but The LGF’s response still isn’t live on the Management in Practice website. The response is as follows...

“Pride in Practice is in no way meant to be “insulting”, “disrespectful” or patronising to GPs, nurses or healthcare professionals.

It’s reassuring that the five comments posted here highlight that you treat all your patients with the same dignity, respect and care.

However, unfortunately this cannot be said for all healthcare professionals; some of whom do not provide equality of care for their lesbian, gay and bisexual patients.

Figures show that 1 in 10 LGB&T individuals have avoided using public services for fear of homophobia, and 1 in 5 health care professionals have admitted to being homophobic. (Statistics taken from Out House, I Count Research 2004 & HMSO, Equalities Review: Sexual Orientation Research Review, 2007)

Interestingly, almost 10,000 LGB people responded to the GP Patient Survey 2011 and LGB people were approximately twice as likely to rate their GP as poor or very poor, when compared to heterosexual people, across a range of measures.

In line with The Lesbian & Gay Foundation’s priorities; Pride in Practice encourages sexual orientation monitoring, ethnicity is monitored as standard and under the Equality Act (2010) we would expect all public services to be monitoring sexual orientation, to be aware of the needs of their service users – so they can give them the best quality of care.

It is true that sexual orientation is a sensitive issue, but that shouldn’t mean that it is ignored. This isn’t always about asking direct questions about sexual orientation (not “sexual preference”), rather it’s about using appropriate language and not making assumptions about peoples’ sexuality. It is often assumed that lesbian, gay, and bisexual patients are heterosexual, often leading to compromising situations, or a person feeling compelled to come out.

You are the medical experts, far from telling you how to do your jobs, we are merely trying to support you in achieving excellence in healthcare for your LGB patients, and demonstrate and celebrate good practice.

In recent research we carried out with lesbian and bisexual women around their experiences of cervical screening; 93% of participants thought that more needed to be done to train health professionals in the needs of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) women relating to cervical screening.

And in terms of the training we have given to healthcare professions, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with 90% of participants saying they felt more or a lot more informed.
Lesbian, gay and bisexual people are more likely to experience mental health issues, sexual health concerns, problems with substance misuse, social isolation, discrimination and hate crime.
It is therefore essential that the needs of LGB people are considered in helping to overcome these health and social inequalities.

We really hope this goes some way to reassuring you about the validity and need for this work. You may dismiss us as an “interest” group, but please listen to the needs and experiences of lesbian, gay and bisexual patients highlighted in this response, who clearly do not feel they are getting equal or quality treatment.”

The Christian Institute and Anglican Mainstream also ran pieces of Pride in Practice – both referring to The Lesbian & Gay Foundation as a “homosexual organisation” and highlighting cases of Christian GP’s who have been reprimanded for talking about their faith with patients.

Pride in Practice does encourage GP’s and their practices to achieve excellence in lesbian, gay and bisexual healthcare. However, it is a patient standard where patient care and meeting their needs is at the very heart of it.

Pride in Practice will act as a benchmarking tool and will encourage GPs across the UK to make sure that their lesbian, gay and bisexual patients are treated fairly, and that their services are inclusive of LGB people and their needs - many of these people will be people of faith too.

For more information on Pride in Practice email dennis.baldwin@lgf.org.uk or to register your surgery for Pride in Practice visit: http://www.lgf.org.uk/prideinpractice