PEOPLE who do not identify as heterosexual have no consistent healthcare service, with many having negative experiences, a survey has found.
Healthwatch Darlington conducted the survey of the LGBT+ community to provide insight into people’s experiences of health and care services in the city.
He found that people’s experiences were positive or negative often depended on who they met and recommended training for healthcare professionals to help them provide more empathetic service.
A total of 78 people took part in the survey, which was supported by consulting and coaching service Arcus to design and distribute it to community members.
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Andi Cull, Managing Director of Arcus, said: “It is a mixed blessing to read the report as it provides qualitative substance to the issues we have raised anecdotally, but it is a shame these issues exist in the first place. .
“We recognize that some participants felt comfortable going to see their GP for help, but it is worrying that some do not. The simple answer to this, perhaps, is training and education.
The Healthwatch report also found that in specific areas such as HIV testing and maternity services, more could be done to make them more accessible and encourage greater uptake of those in need of care.
Negative experiences people had included having misused or misinterpreted pronouns, feeling judged, and making assumptions.
Just over a third of people responded positively when asked if they felt their identity had been respected and understood.
Some people also said they were unable to ask about certain topics, including safer sex, contraception, sexual health in LGBT relationships, options for non-binary people, being having children and the body or gender dysphoria.
About half of those who responded said their identity affected their access to health care.
One person said: “It’s a barrier for me to access health care. I have to be really sick or have a significant need to use health services in Darlington. I don’t think they understand or promote their services as LGBT inclusion at all.
“As a gay woman, I am not asked questions about my reproductive health or my sexual health. He is always rejected.
The survey found that 75% of respondents would first turn to a family member or friend if they were sick or in pain, while 10% would go to their GP or healthcare professional. Other people would turn to Google.
One person said, “Some have been respectful and understanding (or willing to learn/open up about their lack of knowledge). Some have been less so.”
Responding to the enquiry, Pips Scrafton, a volunteer Darlington Pride Weekender organizer who works for the Stonewall charity, said: ‘We’ve been talking about this for many years. When you find an LGBT friendly GP it’s great and people tend to stick with them.
“As a member of the trans community, I have been with the same GP since I transitioned over 20 years ago. From conversations I have had with people in the community, I have found that there is a tendency where someone has an uncomfortable experience that tends to make people reluctant to seek help.
She added: “It’s about ensuring dignity and respect and making sure that individuals are supported. It only takes one bad experience.
Healthwatch made three recommendations; for healthcare providers to consider training programs to promote inclusiveness; promote greater awareness of HIV testing; and plan changes to maternity services to ensure greater use of inclusive language for members of the LGBT+ community.
The Tees Valley Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has been contacted for comment. A spokesman said he had received the report and would discuss it at a meeting. Following this, a response will be made acknowledging the results and discussing what he intends to do about it.
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