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Most LGBTQ+ doctors do not feel comfortable being open at work, report finds

by Beth Gault
4 November 2022

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The majority of LGBTQ+ doctors do not feel comfortable being open with everyone in their workplace about their sexual orientation or gender identity, a report by the BMA has found.

The report, which looked at the experiences of LGBTQ+ medics in education, training and in the workplace, found that only 34% of trans respondents and 46% of lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer (LGBQ+) respondents said they were open about themselves within their place of work or study.

Over 40% of LGBQ+ doctors had directly experienced homophobia or biphobia at least once in the past two years, while almost half (49%) of trans doctors had experienced transphobia in the same period.

Microaggressions, ‘jokes’ and ‘banter’ were widely experienced, with 94% of LGBQ+ respondents having heard these.

Despite this, the report found that most said they had not reported the incidents.  

It also found that one in eight LGBQ+ doctors and one in three trans doctors who responded to the survey have either considered leaving, or have already left, their job due to the discrimination.

In response to the findings, the BMA recommended several changes to improve the experience of LGBTQ+ doctors in the NHS. These include:

  • Improving medical curricula, including teaching about LGBTQ+ people and their health needs
  • Better training for doctors and medical students on inclusion in the workplace, with a greater focus on the impact of microaggressions
  • Increasing the visibility of LGBTQ+ role models and positive examples of inclusion in education and the workplace, as well as clearer commitments from senior leaders to actively champion LGBTQ+ inclusion and challenge discrimination
  • Enabling dialogue and a space to learn with facilitated and reflective learning spaces where people can ask questions and explore attitudes, biases and behaviours without fear or recrimination.  

Dr Emma Runswick, BMA deputy chair of council, said: ‘I may have the distinction of being the first Chief Officer in the history of the BMA to be “out”, but it is unlikely that I am the first to be LGBTQ+. That is because it has not always been safe to be out publicly, especially in professional circles. Changing that is why we do what we do as a professional association and a trade union.

‘Many of us will recognise the experiences described in this report, myself included. It is unacceptable that any of our LGBTQ+ colleagues feel that responses to their sexuality or gender identity is making them want to quit the profession, especially at a time when we can’t afford to lose a single doctor.’

She added: ‘While the report in some places shows we are making progress, and we should celebrate that, it is nevertheless an urgent call to fill in the gaps in education and training and repair the broken systems that allow these prejudices to continue without accountability.’

Trans GP Dr Sam Hall previously shared with Management in Practice how he found himself ‘ostracised and ridiculed’ in his former role as a hospital consultant. He moved into general practice primarily because he had a bad experience of being a service user in the NHS and wanted to make a difference.

‘I was shown hate in ways that are unimaginable, and it has taken me years to understand their reasons,’ he wrote in a blog post.

‘The discrimination was awful, but I had set my path. I knew I was doing the right thing for myself and for my young family, and I never regretted my choice. To put it simply: to transition meant to choose life.’

Speaking on the report, Dr Hall said: ‘The stats tell the age old story that those who are in the oppressed minority perceive far more discrimination than those who are not.

‘If we are to ever understand or even reverse healthcare inequalities, we must listen to the voices of people with lived experience, and believe them.’