Current Affairs

NHS in Wales to improve services for gays and lesbians

Tony Grew April 18, 2008
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New guidance has been issued to the National Health Service by Wales’ Health Minister.

Edwina Hart said that the Assembly government had produced the guidance in partnership with Stonewall Cymru.

A recent national report by the gay equality organisation found that gay, lesbian and bisexual people in Wales are the most likely in Britain to think they will face discrimination when accessing health services.

14% said they expected to be treated worse than a heterosexual if admitted to hospital for an emergency, 16% if attending hospital for a routine procedure.

12% expected a GP would treat them less favourably than a straight patient.

The new guidance aims to increase awareness of pertinent issues for lesbian, gay and bisexual patients when accessing healthcare, ensure that the rights of patients and their partners are upheld in the same way as those of heterosexual couples and ensure that the needs of service users are considered in the commissioning of healthcare services.

The Health Minister will also address Stonewall Cymru’s Annual Conference tomorrow.

“I am pleased to see that the NHS in Wales continues to strive to be fully inclusive and I would encourage all staff to read the new guidance,” Ms Hart said.

“The NHS in Wales is committed to ensuring that all patients are treated with dignity and respect and receive services that are sensitive to their individual healthcare needs irrespective of their sexual orientation.”

Jenny Porter, Stonewall Cymru’s Community Liaison Officer, said: “We warmly welcome this much-needed guidance.

“We know that a significant number of lesbian, gay and bisexual people are still reluctant to disclose their sexual orientation to their doctor or nurse because they fear discrimination and this can lead to receiving inappropriate healthcare advice.

“This guidance will help NHS staff better understand the specific needs of lesbian, gay and bisexual patients while also sending a clear message that all patients are entitled to receive healthcare that is sensitive to their individual needs.”

Ms Hart will not be the only Minister attending the conference.

Dr Brian Gibbons, Wales’ Minister for Social Justice and Local Government, will be there to explain what steps the Assembly government is taking to tackle discrimination.

The conference, entitled Get Engaged! Influencing Decision Makers and Campaigning for Change, will discuss findings from Stonewall’s Serves you Right report, launched earlier this month.

Lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) were asked about their own experiences and expectations of discrimination when it came to work, education, politics, crime and the criminal justice system, housing and healthcare.

The findings for Wales show: 89% of lesbian, gay and bisexual people expect to face discrimination if they were to apply to become a school governor, a third expect to be treated worse than a heterosexual when reporting homophobic hate crime to the police.

43% think the police would treat them worse than a heterosexual person because of their sexual orientation if they were suspected of committing a crime.

Liz Morgan, Director of Stonewall Cymru, told “Our conference will address concerns that many lesbian and gay people still expect unfair treatment in their everyday lives.

“We will be pressing public bodies, and other organisations, to engage with Wales’ gay community, to hear their experiences and use those experiences to make the services they offer fully inclusive.

“It’s vital that lesbian and gay people speak out about their personal experiences to help bring about change. That is why we’ve lined up a series of innovative workshops and inspiring speeches which will empower gay people to make a positive contribution to their communities by campaigning for change.”

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