The importance of being ‘ourselves’ is critical when dealing with our health care. If medics don’t know about us, how can they treat us appropriately? If my doctors know I have a wife, it saves important time when I need help in a medical crisis as I have life threatening conditions.
When we were first a couple it was a nightmare. There was a lot of prejudice and hostile treatment from staff at the surgery and hospital and there have been times of real difficulty for me as a vulnerable patient.
Today, there is real acceptance of us and professional behaviours, which show ALL people are equally valued, are life-changing. We know that some LGBT people need a more sensitive approach as they may have more susceptibility to certain health challenges such as mental health or isolation, substance dependency etc.
Improvements I’ve seen include LGBT Foundation posters and the Pride in Practice Gold award displayed clearly in my GP surgery. Patients are involved in the practice and LGBT issues are taken seriously. Staff may ask sensitive questions about marital status or next of kin etc. as heterosexuality is not assumed. My wife is included in all my health care decisions and is recognised as a Carer who has her own needs; this is so different than it was 7 years ago.
When Pride in Practice started I was one of the first volunteer health champions to tackle these inequalities in Primary Care by taking around leaflets and materials. This was important to help make our needs visible and the medics more aware of appropriate responses. It was hard work. I covered around 40 GP practices over the whole of Bolton. Many of them were not happy to take the leaflets or posters, and a large number of Practice Managers said they didn’t want the material, as “they had no gay people in their practice!” I asked how they knew if they didn’t ask? They said they just knew!
It was an uphill battle, but I am glad I stuck with it. Now all GP practices in Bolton are fully on board and trained up. This also had that ripple effect of bringing about support from the CCG and Council. After many years of being the seventh most homophobic place in the UK, Bolton now has a ‘Pride’ weekend, an LGBT Partnership and the museum and central library recently launched an exhibition about LGBT history about how the town is now more inclusive.
- Rosie, Bolton