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Quarter of LGBT+ people have witnessed discrimination from NHS staff while seeking treatment, poll finds

The Independent logo The Independent 08/11/2018 Alex Matthews-King
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Nearly a quarter of gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people in Britain have witnessed NHS staff making negative remarks about LGBT+ people while seeking care, according to a survey on mental health and inequality.

The research, commissioned by the charity Stonewall, found that the majority (52 per cent) of LGBT+ people had experienced depression in the past year, while three in five had experienced an anxiety disorder.

This compares with one in six of the general population having experienced a mental health problem, and inequalities in health services deter a significant minority from seeking support.

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Mental health issues were significantly higher among LGBT+ people who experienced discrimination or abuse in their day-to-day lives, and were most acute among transgender people.

In the past year, 12 per cent of trans people responding to the poll said they had tried to complete suicide, while nearly half had experienced suicidal thoughts.

In one testimony, a respondent from the southeast, identifying as Elijah, 19, said: “I got sectioned after a suicide attempt and the nurse said that my mental health problems were due to allowing Satan in my soul.

“If I just accepted my true gender then God could forgive me.”

NHS logo © Getty NHS logo Of the 5,000 LGBT+ respondents to the YouGov poll, 23 per cent said they had witnessed similar negative remarks from health professionals and 14 per cent have been put off seeking treatment because of fear of discrimination.

These issues extend to a lack of understanding of their health needs and unequal access to support for a significant minority of lesbian, gay and bisexual people, and as much as 63 per cent among trans people.

“Simply being lesbian, gay, bi or trans shouldn’t mean you’re at higher risk of experiencing poorer mental health or should have to expect unequal treatment from healthcare services in Britain today,” Paul Twocock, director of campaigns, policy and research at Stonewall, said.

“Unfortunately, this report shows that for many, it still does.”

While there has been “outstanding progress” on improving these issues in the NHS, the research paints a “bleak picture” and suggests a need for wider professional training on LGBT+ issues in the NHS, the charity said.

“We need the UK, Scottish and Welsh governments and the NHS to take action to ensure health service staff at all levels understand the needs of all LGBT people and how to support them,” Mr Twocock said.

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