A new campaign is set to tackle the ways in which LGBTQ+ people experience prejudice when it comes to their healthcare.
Holly Wells launched the 'Introduce comprehensive, mandatory training on LGBT issues for healthcare professionals' petition on Change.org after her girlfriend experienced prejudice based on her sexuality while at a medical appointment.
Holly, 24, from Oxfordshire, told Cosmopolitan: "My partner went to hospital for a colonoscopy and when she came round from the anaesthetic she texted me to tell me that the doctor was refusing to acknowledge me as her girlfriend. Even after they'd read my name on the next of kin list, he continued to refer to me as "he". Then when my partner raised it again, they called me her "lift home". There was a complete refusal to accept that she could be in a same sex relationship."
Enraged by her experience, Holly took to social media where she received countless direct messages from other LGBTQ+ people telling her of prejudices at the hands of the healthcare system. "It was sad, but not surprising," she says.
The response led her to set up the Change.org campaign, which now has over 6,000 signatories. It calls for "fully comprehensive, mandatory training in LGBT+ issues for all NHS and other healthcare staff to be undertaken as part of the pre-employment training package". The proposal should be "initially considered by NHS staff, and to be discussed by members of the cross-party Health and Social Care Committee."
If it's successful, it could see healthcare improve for LGBTQ+ patients. "Effective training and support would make a world of difference. Misgendering a patient or their partner, or ignoring a patient's reference to a same-sex partner, can have profound emotional consequences on the patient and their families," the petition states.
Cosmopolitan has been campaigning to highlight the gaps in our healthcare system that lead to women, people from a BAME backgrounds, and the LGBTQ+ community receiving a lower quality of care.
"Of course, most healthcare professionals know how to treat LGBTQ+ patients, but mandatory training would ensure that every person treats LGBTQ+ patients with respect," says Holly. "At the moment, there is no consistency across the NHS Trusts, so how you're dealt with can be a postcode lottery.
"The NHS is brilliant, but we can always strive for improvement, and especially for traditionally marginalised communities."
Holly, who works in education, is new to campaigning at this level. "I've always been involved with causes I care about and signed petitions, but this is the biggest it's ever gone."
A 2019 report titled "Health and Social Care and LGBT communities" found that LGBTQ+ people are being let down by the healthcare they receive, and are often expected to fit into systems and services which assume heterosexuality as a default.
If you'd like to contribute your signature to the petition, click here.
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