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Work needs to be done to improve healthcare experience of LGBT+ patients in Nottinghamshire

Work needs to be done to ensure members of Nottinghamshire’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender patients receive respectful healthcare, according to a report by patient watchdog Healthwatch

A report published this month into the experiences of patients from the LGBT+ community in the city and county show mixed feelings towards their treatment by health and care services.

The research by Healthwatch Nottingham and Healthwatch Nottinghamshire, which is made up of 76 responses from people across Notts, highlights there is more to be done to ensure everyone in Notts receives respectful care with over a third of people commenting that their experiences of health care services had been affected by sexual orientation and/or gender reassignment.

As part of the project people were asked to share with what impact their experiences of health care services had on them. Of the 31 negative experiences, almost two in five people felt it had a negative impact on them with 26 percent identifying specifically how this impacted on their emotional health, with many left feeling anger and despair.

Some reported a lack of dignity and respect that was shown to them, and being made to feel “different” – with two people claiming to have heard professionals making homophobic comments or demonstrating a homophobic attitude.

Not all experiences were negative, however – with other respondents saying they experienced compassion, dignity and respect, and understanding of their LGBT+ status.

Michelle Livingston, Healthwatch Nottinghamshire executive chair, said: “This is a significant problem, an individual’s LGBT status should not be relevant to their experience.”It would appear that many of the negative comments recorded could be addressed by a different approach and attitude.

“The data collected for this report shows that both negative and positive experiences can have a significant and long term impact, not only on the way that a particular service, and other health services are perceived and accessed, but also personally on the individual.”

Healthwatch will be working with providers and commissioners to ensure that the experiences which have been shared as part of this project are noted and addressed.

Recommendations include working with organisations to avoid labelling and language errors that can feel like a lack of concern or respect, and training for staff, work to improve current waiting times, and setting up a network for providers of LGBT+ services for young people to share best practice.

Giles Matsell, head of equality and diversity at Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH), said: “NUH provides equality and diversity training to all our staff, and we have done much work around LGBT awareness, but we accept that experiences need to improve across the whole health community and there is more to be done.”In response to patient feedback we have aimed to increase LGBT awareness, including displaying posters prominently to encourage staff not to make assumptions about our patients or their relationship status and to use inclusive language, such as ‘partner’, to be inclusive of everyone.

“Last year, NUH, together with healthcare organisations across the county published a practical guide for GPs and other health practitioners called In the Pink.”The same partners will be present at Nottinghamshire Pride this year to undertake further patient surveys, something we have done for the past two years and an event NUH has been present at for almost a decade.”