How to make your private practice 'LGBT friendly': physiotherapist Rachael Machin offers some advice
With June being designated as ‘Pride Month’, physiotherapist Rachael Machin offers some timely advice on making your private practice LGBT friendly. Rachael, who works in the private sector and as a locum in the NHS, was the convenor of the Chartered Society for Physiotherapy’s LGBTQIA+ network from 2011 to 2016.
You may have seen rainbow badges sported by healthcare workers across the NHS in recent months. The initiative started at Evelina London Children’s hospital and has now spread across the NHS, championed by Stonewall and NHS England, with over six NHS trusts in 10 taking part.
The purpose is to show that these services are open, non-judgemental, and inclusive places for LGBT+ people.
Stonewall’s 2018 LGBT in Britain Health report showed that 14 per cent of LGBT+ people avoid seeking healthcare for fear of discrimination from staff. In addition, LGBT+ people experience a range of health inequalities throughout their lives which mean they are more likely to need help from health care providers. See: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/system/files/lgbt_in_britain_health.pdf
- Cigna, a worldwide health insurance provider, recognised these disparities. It is working to close the gaps by educating staff and working with major LGBT+ organisations to stay up-to-date with the changing needs of this group of patients.
What steps can you take?
So what can individual private and independent physiotherapy practices across the UK do to ensure they provide inclusive and welcoming services to the LGBT+ community? Here’s a quick six-point plan to get you up and running.
- education: there are so many resources readily available, but where do you start? The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy has an active LGBTQIA+ network with links to helpful websites. The CSP Equality and Diversity toolkit is packed with information.
- avoid assumptions: ask open questions and use gender neutral language, for example ask ‘do you live with anyone?’ rather than referring to having a husband or wife. Don’t assume you know someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity based on how they look.
- listen: patients will guide you with how they describe their own identity, gender, partners and relationships; reflect their choice of language. Be aware, however, that some LGBT+ people may have reclaimed derogatory words; it’s not appropriate or professional to use these terms yourself.
- confidentiality: independent clinics often offer more private spaces than the curtained cubicles of the NHS, which may make disclosure easier for LGBT+ people. Remember to keep any information shared confidentially, and be aware that it’s a criminal offence to reveal someone’s transgender status without their consent (Gender Recognition Act 2004).
- be visible: consider wearing a rainbow badge on your uniform or displaying it on your website or promotional material. Many LGBT+ people will seek out services that are friendly and inclusive to their community. You may want to show your support on social media by acknowledging important dates like the International Day of Transgender Visibility, LGBT+ History Month and local Pride celebrations.
- straight allies: this is a term used to describe heterosexual people who believe in LGBT+ equality. It’s easy today to forget that same-sex sexual activity is a crime in 70 countries, with some imposing the death penalty for alleged ‘transgressions’. In the UK, one LGBT+ person in five has experienced a hate crime. By championing the LGBT+ community in your own practice, you can make a huge difference.
For information about forthcoming Pride events, visit: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/pride-month-2021-founded-history-b1859815.htmlAuthor: Edited by Ian A McMillan