LGBT people face ‘stark health inequalities’

LGBT people are being let down in health and social care, a report by the Women and Equalities Committee says.

In a report published today (October 22), the Women and Equalities Committee said LGBT people are being let down by structures and services that are not inclusive or designed with them in mind.

The report said that, too often, LGBT people are expected to fit into systems that assume they are straight and cisgender. But the Committee has found that deep inequalities exist in health outcomes for these communities and that treating them ‘the same’ as non-LGBT people will not address these poor outcomes.

The findings reflect research by the LGBT Foundation, which shows a third of lesbian and bisexual women were told that they didn’t need a cervical screen because of their sexual orientation.  This means that lesbian and bisexual women are twice as likely not to have a cervical screen.

One in five trans respondents to the National LGBT Survey said their specific needs were ignored or not taken into account when they accessed or tried to access, healthcare services in 2018. While 18% said they were subject to inappropriate curiosity and 18% also said they avoided treatment for fear of discrimination or intolerant reactions.

Laurence Webb, assistant director of Inclusion at LGBT Foundation said it’s crucial that all healthcare professionals operate a practice of personalised care. He said:

‘LGBT people face a number of stark health inequalities that limit their chances to live longer, healthier lives.  Effective monitoring highlights inequalities between different groups and allows better identification of issues that affect particular groups in society.

‘It is crucial that all healthcare professionals operate a practice of personalised care. Speaking openly and respectfully about a patient’s sexual orientation and trans status allows healthcare professionals to understand the specific needs of their LGBT patients, and creates a culture of inclusivity and openness.

‘The simple fact is if we’re not counted, we don’t count.’

The report also said that, while LGBT people do generally have the same health and social care needs as the rest of the population for the majority of the time, the evidence shows that they do not always receive the same level of service as non-LGBT people and that they have poorer health outcomes across many areas, for example, in levels of smoking and numbers who quit smoking, alcohol abuse, and even cancer outcomes.

It also said that, while some of the disparities have been uncovered, many of the inequalities remain hidden, as data collection is poor and patchy across health and social care services.

Maria Miller MP, chair of the committee, said mainstream health service need to make changes now to ensure they are taking the needs of LGBT patients into account. She said:

‘The best will in the world won’t change the systemic failings in areas such as data collection and training that are leading to poorer experience when accessing services, and to poorer health outcomes for LGBT people.

‘This can never be acceptable. Mainstream services must move now to ensure that they are inclusive and are effectively identifying and taking into account the needs of the LGBT communities.’

The committee is calling for sexual orientation and gender identity monitoring to be made mandatory by the NHS and social care sector within the next 12 months. And has recommended that training on LGBT issues be made mandatory and an integral part of all core medical professional training.

An NHS spokesperson said:

‘The NHS is there for everyone, where people are respected and all patients receive the excellent physical and mental health care they need.’

Photo Credit – Pixabay

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