February is LGBT+ History Month. Here, Dr Duncan McGregor, Co-Chair of GLADD – The Association of LGBTQ+ Doctors and Dentists, gives a personal view of the impact of the Covid lockdown on the LBGTQ+ community, and the promising work that is ongoing and will come to fruition as the health services emerge from the pandemic.
This year’s LGBT+ History Month has been very different to any that the LGBT+ community has experienced since the UK’s very first in 2004. Over recent years, February has been a time of learning, connection, and celebration for much of the LGBT+ community, with many LGBT+ venues hosting vast arrays of events bringing together the LGBT+ community.
February has – for many years – been a month to bring the community together. This year, however, has been a different story.
LGBT+ people have long used LGBT+ spaces to connect with our community; be that to explore identity, touch base with support networks, or to simply connect with others. The last 12 months have seen many changes, including a significant loss of those spaces.
Recent data from the LGBT Foundation demonstrates that the impact of lockdown on the LGBT+ community has been profound, with many experiencing isolation and worsening mental health1.
With the roll out of the Covid-19 vaccine comes a glimmer of hope that these crucial LGBT+ spaces can re-open to allow the re-connection of our fractured community. However, repairing the damage caused by isolation is but the first step towards growing the LGBT+ community to its full prosperity.
Research both by government and third sector organisations continue to show the vast inequalities which exist throughout the lives of LGBT+ people. The most prominent of these pieces of research – the 2018 LGBT Survey – was particularly damning of the state of healthcare for LGBT+ individuals in the UK2.
Since this report, however, the positive news is that an increasing number of organisations are working to improve this. The Government Equalities Office has appointed Dr Michael Brady as the UK Government’s National Advisor for LGBT Health, and he has worked tirelessly over the last two years with increasing scope to narrow the health inequalities experienced by the LGBT+ community.
Organisations such as my own, GLADD – The LGBTQ+ Association of Doctors and Dentists, continue to work with local NHS Trusts and Medical Schools to improve the state of LGBT+ health education and provision.
And, perhaps most excitingly, the NHS Rainbow Badges Project, initially spearheaded by Dr Mike Farquhar, has moved from strength to strength. The badges are won by NHS staff who have pledged to reduce inequalities and provide support and non-judgemental and inclusive care for LGBT+ people.
This year, the project has received funding to be taken forward by an innovative new collaboration of LGBT rights charity Stonewall, the LGBT Foundation, LGBT Consortium, LGBT Switchboard and my organisation GLADD – The LGBTQ+ Association of Doctors and Dentists3. Together, this collaboration will take an already successful LGBT+ visibility project to an ambitious new level.
Despite these promising steps, however, clinicians must remain wary as some areas of LGBT+ health remain to be politically charged. This last year has seen transgender healthcare prominent within the public eye, and has lead to a High Court judgement on the healthcare of young trans patients4. While this judgement has been appealed, the outcome of which is pending, it remains to be a highly contentious area.
As clinicians, we must always challenge ourselves to see beyond the politics and media to ensure that we see the patient in front of us and do our level best for that person.
1. LGBT Foundation. LGBT Foundation – Hidden Figures: The Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on LGBT Communities. Published 2020. Accessed February 23, 2021. https://lgbt.foundation/coronavirus/hiddenfigures
2. Government Equalities Office. LGBT SURVEY SUMMARY REPORT.; 2018. Accessed February 23, 2021. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/722314/GEO-LGBT-Survey-Report.pdf
3. NHS Rainbow Badges – play your part promoting LGBT inclusion in healthcare | Stonewall. Accessed February 23, 2021. https://www.stonewall.org.uk/about-us/news/nhs-rainbow-badges-–-play-your-part-promoting-lgbt-inclusion-healthcare
4. Hyam JQ, Henderson A. Between : (1) QUINCY BELL (2) MRS A Claimants and THE TAVISTOCK AND PORTMAN NHS FOUNDATION TRUST Defendant NATIONAL HEALTH SERVICE COMMISSIONING BOARD (NHS ENGLAND) Interested Party (1) UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON HOSPITALS NHS FOUNDATION TRUST (2) LEEDS TEACHING HOSPITALS NHS TRUST (3) TRANSGENDER TLTD IntervenersREND .; 2020.