NHS chiefs say fighting homophobia ‘can’t be delegated’

Reiss Smith July 8, 2019
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A close-up of somebody wearing an NHS uniform with a stethoscope around their neck.

NHS staff face anti-LGBT+ discrimination from patients and carers, three chief executives have said. (Getty)

Three chief executives from major NHS trusts in the south of England have said that homophobic and racist abuse of staff must be addressed by senior members of the health service.

Speaking at a HSJ (Health Service Journal) roundtable, the trust leaders called on their peers to challenge discrimination in the communities that they serve.

Andrew Ridley, of the Central London Community Healthcare Trust, said that fighting racist and anti-LGBT+ abuse is “one of the few things that cannot or should not be delegated” by chief executives.

Noting that staff who have been discriminated against must be supported, he said that chief executives also needed to ask themselves “what are we going to do” with abusive patients, carers and communities.

“I think we have a responsibility as employers to say ‘we might be a universal service… but there are some basic ground rules,” he added.

Overt homophobia easier to fight than ‘polite’ abuse

Nick Hulme, chief executive of the East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust, said that his trust has “a more diverse workforce than we do a patient group.”

He described north Essex as “probably the most homophobic, racist, awful place in some senses to live in the country,” suggesting that some in the area are “quite happy to sit around and talk about bloody foreigners and those poofs that live at the end of the road.”

Some are quite happy to sit around and talk about bloody foreigners and those poofs that live at the end of the road.

Hulme said that it was the job of a chief executive to challenge this sort of abuse “when we hear it from our staff, but also when we hear it from our patients.”

Melanie Walker of the Devon Partnership Trust echoed Hulme’s words, describing the “overt racism and homophobia” in Devon.

She suggested that this blatant discrimination is “much easier” to counter than the “subtle and polite” abuse prevalent elsewhere in her county, noting that her trust covers the constituency which elected Ann Widdecombe to the EU Parliament in May.

Quarter of LGBT+ NHS staff face discrimination

The NHS is the largest employer in the UK, however some 26 percent of LGBT+ staff experience discrimination due to their sexual orientation from patients, according to Stonewall.

The charity says that while NHS organisations must not discriminate against LGBT+ staff, they also have a legal responsibility to protect them from all homophobic harassment at work under the Equality Act 2010.

A Stonewall spokesperson told PinkNews: “It’s important that discrimination and anti-LGBT+ language are challenged by health and social care staff.

“We recommend all health and social care staff are given diversity and inclusion training to raise awareness of how to safely address anti-LGBT language to create a more inclusive environment.”

Dr Michael Brady, the NHS’ new national LGBT+ health advisor said that the health service is “supporting initiatives that reduce inequalities and promote inclusivity” as part of its Long Term Plan.

“I take pride in the diversity of our workforce and the fact that our health service is there for everyone—whatever their race, gender or sexuality,” he told PinkNews.

“Every part of our NHS must be a place where LGBT+ people are respected—both staff and patients.

“We will continue to work to support our staff and ensure they are comfortable being themselves at work and safe in the knowledge that we will not tolerate racist, homophobic or transphobic behaviour.”

More: Homophobia, NHS, racism

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