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How can I make my practice more LBGT aware?

23 February 2018

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If your practice doesn’t explicitly cater for LGBT patients, you might be missing a trick.

But services like Pride in Practice provide practice managers and other practice staff with support to help them become more aware of LGBT issues and what this means for their practice.

Pride in Practice is an LGBT Foundation project currently rolled out in Greater Manchester, endorsed by the Royal College of GPs and funded by Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership and NHS England.

It aims at improving the experience of LGBT patients when they visit their GP practice by offering free training to practices in Greater Manchester. 

‘The programme reminds practice staff not to make assumptions when dealing with LGBT patients, which is something they should be aware of considering the General Medical Council Good Practice Guidelines and the Equality Act 2010,’ Andrew Gilliver, Pride in Practice coordinator, explains. ‘People have told us that seeing our poster in a GP surgery has saved their life.’ 

Pride in Practice rewards participants with a wall plaque specifying which grade the practice was awarded during the assessment. Practices are awarded a bronze, silver or gold plaque depending on assessment results.

So how exactly can practice managers make their practices more LGBT friendly?

Management in Practice spoke with senior administrator at Radcliffe Medical Practice Yvette Hodges about how she and her team achieved just that.

Why we joined the training

We were encouraged to contact LGBT Foundation by a story in our local CCG newsletter. We saw that other surgeries had gained the Pride in Practice award and felt this was something positive that our practice should be involved in.  I contacted LGBT Foundation and spoke with Andrew, who is our local Pride in Practice Community Co-ordinator.

We arranged a meeting for Andrew to come to the surgery and explain what Pride in Practice was all about and how LGBT Foundation could help us offer a wider service to our patients who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

How we were assessed  

Part of Andrew’s visit to the surgery involved completing an assessment form to evaluate the surgeries policies, protocols and healthcare services that we currently offer to our LGBT patients. On this first assessment, we achieved a Silver Pride in Practice award and this indicated to us that there were areas where, as a practice, we needed to improve.

The challenges we faced

Andrew asked us to evaluate our policies and procedures to ensure they were fully inclusive of LGBT people. On doing this, we realised that many of our policies, such as the practice’s zero tolerance and discrimination policies did not specifically include LGBT patients and so discrimination of sexual orientation,  gender identity and  trans status were subsequently included in our policies.

Another area that the Pride in Practice training helped us to improve in was the way we identify our LGBT patients. While the surgery already had an Equality and Diversity form to identify patients through race, religion, gender and age, it did not include factors such as patients’ sexual orientation, gender identity and trans status.

Our achievements

Before completing Pride in Practice training and then going through the assessment, I think the attitude of most of the surgery staff was that we offered an equitable service to all our patients – so why did we need special training to support our LGBT patients?

But the training and guidance we received from Andrew helped us realise that the service we offered to our LGBT patients was not as equitable as we first thought. For us to provide a high quality health care service we needed to understand the diverse identities of our patients and what their individual needs might be. 

Andrew explained that changing our policies to be more inclusive of LGBT people demonstrated that the surgery had an awareness of LGBT peoples’ needs and this helped us to create a supportive and safe environment for all LGBT people who visit the surgery.

Following the Pride in practice training, we have successfully modified our Equality and Diversity form the form to include patient sexual orientation, gender identity and trans status, which we now code on the patient notes. By doing this, we can monitor the diversity of our patients and this will help us ensure that each patient receives a health care service that is tailored to their individual needs.

Based on our experience with LGBT Foundation, we would definitely recommend the Pride in Practice programme to other surgeries. We feel that the continued support of the LGBT Foundation staff and resources will help us meet the needs of our LGBT patients.

Yvette Hodges is senior practice administrator at Radcliffe Medical Practice in Radcliffe, Manchester