Interview: Dr Michael Farquhar

This week DHU Health Care  launched the Rainbow Badge initiative to promote a positive message of inclusion for LGBT+ patients and colleagues across the company.

It gives DHU Health Care staff a clear way to show that they are aware of the issues that LGBT+ people can face when accessing healthcare.

The scheme originated at Evelina London Children’s Hospital and community services, part of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, with the simple objective  to make a positive difference by promoting a message of inclusion.

I spoke to Dr Michael Farquhar, a consultant in sleep medicine at Evelina London Children’s Hospital, who began the initiative at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Trust.

Dr Mike Farquhar

What barriers is the initiative hoping to break down by introducing the badges into the healthcare environment?

We know from data from Stonewall (such as the Unhealthy Attitudes Report) that LGBT+ people can still face significant prejudice and barriers when accessing NHS healthcare. 1 in 7 LGBT+ people would actively choose not to access healthcare because of this, and that in turn contributes to some of the higher rate of physical and mental health problems we see in LGBT+ people.

The badges are intended to be part of a solution to address these issues, by clearly sending a signal that attitudes like this are not acceptable, must be challenged, and that LGBT+ people can feel confident in talking openly about matters relating to their sexuality or gender identity with their healthcare professionals.

Attitudes towards LGBT+ have changed hugely over the last few decades, but clearly more still needs to be done given recent research, are things getting better?

Dr Michael Farquhar: While there is much to be celebrated in terms of improvements in rights and attitudes towards LGBT+ people, unfortunately we cannot be complacent. Media attitudes towards trans people in particular continue to be significantly hostile, and there is also still significant work still to be done in terms of intersectionality, such as the experiences of LGBT+ people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds. We are seeing a rise in hate crimes directed against LGBT+ people, and at the same time we are seeing a resurgence of some of the attitudes which we thought were long gone, such as the protests against inclusive education we are seeing at some schools, using language reminiscent of Section 28. Rights which have been hard-fought for and won still need to be defended, and those rights need to be consistently applied to *all* under the LGBT+ umbrella … so yes, there is still lots to do.

Tell me a bit about the response you’ve had to the initiative, would you say it’s created a positive conversation around LGBT Issues?

Dr Michael Farquhar: The response has been hugely positive, and amazingly enthusiastic – in or own Trust, over 4000 people (>25% of all staff) have chosen to sign-up to the project and to wear a badge, and we’re seeing similar enthusiasm in every place where the badge project has been introduced. 50 NHS Trusts in England have already launched the project, as well as a number of pan-NHS organisations, and scores of GP practices.

The challenge is to continue to harness that clear enthusiasm and commitment of so many within the NHS to be part of the solution of raising awareness and making things better for LGBT+ people, and to continue to build on the foundation the project is hopefully creating.

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