“We should provide the best possible experience for LGBTQ+ patients and staff” | #TeamBartsHealth blogs

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“We should provide the best possible experience for LGBTQ+ patients and staff”

For Pride Month, St Bartholomew’s LGBTQ+ and allies’ network co-lead Darren Barnes reflects on what the network has achieved over the last year and provides some personal thoughts on being LGBTQ+ in the NHS. 

A founding principle of the NHS is inclusivity. I’m grateful that this is as true today as it was when the NHS was established in 1948.

I’ve always believed the only way to consistently provide the highest possible level of care is through being truly inclusive.

For me this means creating the right conditions for our staff at St Bartholomew’s to flourish and our patients to receive the services they need. 

Equality, diversity and inclusion lies at the heart of what we do: commitment and dedication to improving the health and wellbeing of our diverse population.

To support this, St Bartholomew’s LGBTQ+ network and its equality strategy focuses on three aims: 

* Improved patient access, safety and experience. 

* A representative and supported workforce. 

* Inclusive leadership. 

I’m passionate that we provide the best possible experience for our patients and their loved ones who identify as LGBTQ+.

In the last year we have created a network of LGBTQ+ ambassadors with the promotion and visibility of the NHS rainbow badge and lanyards.

The rainbow badge, when worn by staff will indicate they have signed a pledge declaring they are happy to be approached by any LGBTQ+ patient and their loved ones as a safe space for open communication and support. 

A priority is our commitment to improve the way in which we deliver end of life care to our LGBTQ+ patients.

This is a time when people should be able to be who they are, with the people that mean the most to them in their life. Prejudice and discrimination at the end of life have a devastating impact on LGBTQ+ people.

At its very worst, it means someone may spend their last days feeling isolated, alone, angry and unwelcome.

For those who lose a loved one, not being able to say goodbye in a respectful and peaceful environment can make grief and bereavement that much harder to bear.

With support from the trust palliative care team, the hospital has rolled out training for LGBTQ+ issues and end of life care for staff. It’s vital that we ensure that staff are equipped to deliver safe and compassionate care for these vulnerable patients.

More recently during the Covid-19 pandemic, I’ve been especially heartened to hear from our critical care and clinical nurse specialist teams that our support for LGBTQ+ patients has had a positive impact on care.

As a staff member who identifies as LGBTQ+, I believe that our staff should always feel empowered and supported to come to work at St Bartholomew’s as their true and authentic self.

As co-lead for the St Bartholomew’s LGBTQ+ network, I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to support staff networking and signposting individual staff members to local support services.

I’ve always believed that a positive and robust leadership on promoting LGBTQ+ equality is essential in ensuring that NHS workplaces are free from discrimination.

Aligned to Stonewall’s Workforce Equality Index (WEI), the leadership team at St Bartholomew’s has focused upon areas such as staff training on LGBTQ+ equality, establishing our local LGBTQ+ staff network and role-modelling LGBTQ+ representation at senior and board level. 

Whilst Pride Month gives us the opportunity to celebrate our successes over the last year, there is still much to do.

This coming year’s priorities include Improving the response rate in the Stonewall workplace questionnaire, forming close ties with LGBTQ+ groups from neighbouring NHS organisations closely linked to Barts Health, an official launch of the transgender guideline for staff and further developing a LGBTQ+ patient engagement strategy. 

In support of Pride month, we will be holding a LGBTQ+ COVID pandemic focus group on Monday 29th June (2-3:30pm) and will fly the rainbow flag above the North Wing so please join us as we celebrate our LGBTQ+ communities. 

Darren Barnes is the co-lead for the St Bartholomew’s LGBTQ+ network with the hospital’s lead clinical site manager, Jason Morley-Smith.

If you are interested in joining the network or would like to find out more, please email Darren.barnes@nhs.net or jason.morley-smith@nhs.net

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