The Women and Equalities Committee has revealed the extent of inequalities for LGBT people in health and social care in a report published this week.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people are being let down by health and social care, says the report, with structures and services that are not inclusive or designed with them in mind, and a lack of leadership in Government, the NHS and social services.
The report into inequalities for LGBT people finds that, too often, LGBT people are expected to fit into systems that assume they are straight and cisgender. But the Committee says that deep inequalities exist in outcomes for these communities and that treating them the same as non-LGBT people will not address this issue.
Maria Miller MP, Chair of the Women and Equalities Committee, said, 'We found a lot of good will in health and social care services to make them LGBT inclusive, and examples of good practice that must be shared and embedded in our services. But unfortunately, the best will in the world won’t change the systemic failings in areas such as data-collection and training that are leading to poorer experience when accessing services, and to poorer health outcomes for LGBT people.
'This can never be acceptable. LGBT-specific services play an essential role in the health and social care services for the moment and must be maintained as long as that’s necessary, but mainstream services must move now ensure that they are inclusive and are effectively identifying and taking into account the needs of the LGBT communities.'
The Committee states that while LGBT people do generally have the same health and social care needs as the rest of the population for the majority of the time, the evidence shows that they do not always receive the same level of service as non-LGBT people and that they have poorer outcomes across many areas.
While some of the disparities have been uncovered, many of the inequalities remain hidden, as data collection is poor and patchy across health and social care services. The Committee is therefore recommending that sexual orientation and gender identity monitoring should be made mandatory by the NHS and social care sector within the next 12 months.
The Committee found that, while there is a lot of good will in health and social care services to make them LGBT-inclusive, the work is driven by committed individuals in a piecemeal fashion rather than by senior leaders in the NHS, councils or the Government. There is little joined-up thinking and LGBT issues are tacked on to existing policies, rather than integrated into health and social care systems.
Witnesses to the Committee commented repeatedly on the importance of training of front-line staff. Staff training varies hugely between disciplines and the Committee is concerned that staff may not receive any training on LGBT issues during any of their professional training. On this subject, the Committee recommends, 'Those responsible for the education and training of health and social care professionals should treat training on LGBT needs with the same integral importance as other basic training. This must happen early in training and not be seen as a “specialism” to be delivered post-qualification.'
The report also recommends that the Care Quality Commission should conduct a thematic review of care and support services for LGBT people, including best-practice examples and guidance on creating LGBT-inclusive services.