The NHS takes Pride

london pride

01 / 7 / 2015 3.06pm

Oli Gregory is bid manager at Bromley Healthcare

The NHS through NHS Employers came out in full support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) staff and patients with an open top bus at London Pride on Saturday 27 June. 

Some may argue that hiring a bus is not the best use of money at a time of squeezed budgets and pressure on front-line staff. But, when you experience first-hand the support from colleagues on the bus and flag-waving spectators as we made our way through central London streets - you know it's money well spent. If you accept the idea that the NHS is of, and for all people it is essential that it is represented at events such as Pride in London.

Attitudes have changed

There has been tremendous progress in the shifts of public attitudes over recent years. In 1985 almost two-thirds of people thought that homosexuality was always or mostly wrong, whereas in 2013 this figure fell to around a fifth of people. This change has been backed up with widespread public support for gay marriage in Britain, Ireland and most recently in the USA. 

Despite the good news there is still much to be done. LGBT people are still significantly more likely to experience poorer physical and mental health than the general population. A 2013 report by NHS England looking at health inequalities found that LGBT people have a one and a half times higher risk of having a depression or anxiety disorder, and have a one and a half time higher risk of alcohol and other substance dependence. 

In 2012 Stonewall carried out a major survey that showed that 24 per cent of gay and bisexual men report being in 'fair' or 'bad' health, compared to 17 per cent of men in general. Survey respondents typically felt that health services tended focus on sexual health and HIV status, rather than wider aspects of health and wellbeing for LGBT people. 

I'm a patient too

As a gay man working in the NHS and as a patient I believe that we must do more to challenge these trends and to better serve the needs of LGBT patients. This is confirmed when a 2015 survey carried out by the Health Service Journal of NHS staff found that despite massive improvements over the past five years, only 23 per cent felt that their organisation provided training on the specific health needs and priorities of LGBT service users.

This is what made having the bus at Pride in London so important. It is the NHS as an institution taking pride and marching in solidarity with LGBT staff and patients. This sends out a powerful message to the public that the health service as a whole fully embraces everyone whatever their sexuality. It is a message that is hard to ignore, and in its own way reminds us all of us that although much has been achieved we must do more to improve the health of every single person regardless of who they are.

The day was a resounding success! 

Oli Gregory is bid manager at Bromley Healthcare

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