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Programme helping practices deliver better care to LGBTQ+ patients reaches milestone number

by Rima Evans
8 July 2024

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Pride in Practice, a programme that aims to improve the experiences of LGBTQ+ patients accessing primary care services, has celebrated accrediting its 1000th practice.

The scheme, launched in 2010 and delivered by the LGBT Foundation, reached the milestone number after delivering training to the Talbot Medical Centre in South Tyneside.

The education and quality assurance programme has predominantly worked in the Manchester area (it receives funding from the Greater Manchester Combined Authority) but is now expanding nationally.

Alex Matheson, deputy director of education at the LGBT Foundation, said it has also started to work with services outside of primary care as requests from secondary and social care have risen sharply.

It’s going exceptionally well,’ she said. ‘We are now expanding more nationally and outside of primary care, which we’re going to focus on over the next two years. We’ve seen a huge increase in secondary care requests and social care requests. It’s a natural step for us, we have a lot of work with social care anyway, so it makes sense to expand Pride in Practice into those areas.’

Mrs Matheson added: ‘We’ve got a good geographical spread. Our growth has happened through GPs, PCNs and practices talking to others.’

The scheme, endorsed by the RCGP and available to GP practices, pharmacies, dentists and optometrists, consists of LGBTQ+ inclusion training and guidance, and an accredited award recognising a service’s commitment to LGBTQ+ excellence in healthcare, and how well they are meeting patients’ needs.

Mrs Matheson said: ‘We know from our patient survey that in areas where Pride in Practice is implemented, patients have a significantly higher view of their GP practice and are more likely to feel supported and safe.

‘We provide a lot of support over and above the assessment and training process. For example, we get patients contacting us because they’ve seen the award displayed in their practice, but then experienced a problem. We also provide mediation with the GPs. Other practices that completed the training a while ago but then not needed to use it until more recently, also might contact us for further support.’

The cost is around £1,250 per practice for in-person training and there are renewal fees after that.

However, Mrs Matheson said frequently it is PCNs picking up the tab.

Quite often it’s the PCNs who commission us to go into practices within their network, and we’ll train PCN staff as well.

‘PCNs can encourage practices, not just by providing the funds, but also by explicitly saying it is an area of healthcare in which they want to see change.

‘We encourage PCNs to think about how they roll it out. So, they might consider getting half their practices trained this year and the other other half next year. The PCN will still be able to access support anytime because it is funding it.’

The programme has resulted in leading  examples of good care for LGBTQ+ patients.

Mrs Matheson said:There are practices that have set up separate micro-screening clinics for trans and non-binary patients because of being involved in Pride in Practice.

‘Other services have started monitoring and recording trans status properly, because there isn’t an NHS information standard for this group. Once they’ve started this monitoring, they have discovered they have lots of patients in this group they didn’t realise they had. That makes it easier to meet their specific needs.’

She added: ‘There are also PCNs who are directly targetting queer women on cervical smears. Around 33% of them have been incorrectly told they don’t need a cervical smear at some point by a healthcare professional. To combat that, some practices now send information directly to these patients to say yes you do need one.’

To find out more about Pride in Practice see here.

What can practice managers and practices do to be more welcoming to LGBTQ+ patients?

Alex Matheson advises:

‘LGBTQ+ inclusion is a whole practice issue. It is everything from ensuring admin staff feel confident updating records and gender markers for trans patients, through to nursing staff understanding the barriers to screening  faced by lesbian and bi women, or GPs knowing how to confidently support their LGBTQ+ patients so they feel comfortable discussing issues.

‘In other words, every member of the practice can make a difference.

‘One step practices can take is to imagine the patient journey and perspective. Put yourself in the shoes of  someone registering at the practice, and ask what do I see? Do I see myself? Am I represented? When I’m filling in the form, do I have the opportunity to identify myself? Are you asking monitoring questions? If so, ask will I see my identity there as an option?

‘This is all what makes a difference. PCNs can also encourage their practices by walking them through those touch points.’

A version of this article was first published by our sister title Pulse PCN