A new system has been approved in the District of Columbia that will require healthcare professionals to get training in LGBT “competency”.

The Advocate picked up today on the unnoticed legislation, the LGBTQ Cultural Competency Continuing Education Amendment Act, after it cleared the Council of the District of Columbia – the governing body for Washington DC.

The legislation was unanimously passed this week, and when signed by Mayor Muriel Bowser, will set a new benchmark for LGBT healthcare policy.

The bill would make DC the first jurisdiction in the US to require all healthcare professionals – including doctors and nurses – undergo “two credits of instruction on cultural competency or specialized clinical training focusing on patients who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender nonconfirming, queer, or questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression”.

The bill is designed to tackle the specific barriers that some LGBT people – and specifically trans people – are faced with when getting treatment.

The majority of doctors have never received training to deal with the issues that LGBT patients face – while LGBT people are statistically at a higher risk of depression and mental health issues.

Similar bills have been proposed elsewhere, but the DC legislation is the first comprehensive law to pass, requiring the mandatory training for all professionals in continuing education.

Council member David Grosso, who proposed the legislation, told the Washington Blade previously: “During the hearing on this bill, we heard truly heartbreaking stories from LGBTQ residents about mistreatment they experienced at the hands of medical providers.

“In particular, our transgender friends and neighbours face disrespect and misunderstanding in medical settings, and this bill will continue our work to correct this serious problem.”

The bill had faced opposition from the Medical Society of DC, which complained that “no matter how well-intentioned”, politicians should not be “determining what physicians ought to be taught”, adding that the “carrot of professional responsibility” could be an effective alternative.

However, advocates insist that research suggests mandating cultural competency training can drastically improve performance in target areas.