June 20th, 2005
New research from the British Medical Association suggests gay medics don’t come out to colleagues for fear of discrimination, which can put their careers at risk. Gay and lesbian patients also won’t come out to their doctor for fear their treatment will be compromised.
The BMA report ‘Sexual Orientation in the Workplace’ was launched to coincide with pride fortnight, and sets out guidance for the NHS to become more gay-friendly. This includes targeting homophobia within the NHS and training medical students to be non-judgemental about lesbian and gay patients.
Most of us working within healthcare are aware that gay, lesbian, bi and trans patients and doctors are often discriminated against. Many doctors and nurses are uncomfortable discussing issues of sexuality. Whilst I support the move from the BMA to reduce homophobia, the idea of teaching staff to be non-judgemental is more difficult. Staff need support and training to discuss their ideas about homosexuality and to feel more comfortable treating gay patients, rather than simply be told they should be non-judgemental.
Both practitioners, patients and carers might find Charles Moser’s book Healthcare without shame: a guide for the sexually diverse and their caregivers (open access) helps improve confidence and communication.
I’m also running an online training course with doctors.net to help GPs communicate sexual health issues with diverse patients. The service starts on July 1st, so if you’re a UK GP then come and join us*.
Let’s support the BMA and other groups in their efforts to overcome homophobia in the health service.
*Update September 2012
I ran the online course for doctors.net for a few months but it was eventually closed after members of the site (all medics) continually spammed message boards for the module with joke comments about sex, mocking patients and homophobic abuse. It suggested to me the very real need to have critical training for practitioners in this area. But perhaps not in an online forum on a popular medical site.