Doctors are urged to take a stand against homophobia after a survey uncovered unacceptable levels in the NHS.
The survey, commissioned by the BMA and GLADD (the Association of LGBT Doctors and Dentists), found that many of the 803 respondents had experienced ‘environmental’ homophobia at their place of work or study in the past two years.
This kind of abuse is short of harassment and often relates to experiences such as ‘having assumptions made about you based on your sexual orientation’ and ‘feeling unable to talk about your private life’, according to the report on the experiences of lesbian, gay and bisexual doctors in the NHS.
Others said they had experienced at least one or more types of serious harassment or abuse at their place of work or study due to being lesbian, gay or bisexual.
Fear of reporting abuse
These forms of abuse include emotional and verbal abuse, and the threat of physical or sexual violence. Four respondents reported physical or sexual violence.
Only a quarter of those who felt they had suffered harassment or abuse reported the incident to a senior colleague.
Several respondents told researchers they had decided against reporting abuse for fear it would cause an escalation or even reprisals.
‘I didn’t think I would be believed or taken seriously,’ one said. ‘I did not know how and who to report to,’ was another response. ‘I didn’t want anyone else to know.’
GLADD co-chair Becki Taylor-Smith described the levels of abuse uncovered as unacceptable.
‘In a time where equal rights seem to be gaining traction for LGBT people in the UK, it is disturbing to hear of those who have experienced abuse on account of their sexual orientation.’
BMA representative body chair Anthea Mowat said: ‘The experiences related in this report show us that too many of our colleagues are still experiencing the NHS as a less than supportive place to work and be themselves.
‘We are committed to doing everything in our power to change that.’
In one case study, ‘Richard’, who is openly gay with friends and fellow junior doctors, stops short of being fully open at work. ‘It takes me a while to trust people,’ he said.
Another case study was Charlotte, a locum GP in her 40s who is generally open about being lesbian but finds her work environment more complicated. Her practice is largely run by Christians and serves a mainly poor, conservative, Bangladeshi community. While staff were aware of her sexuality, one administrator told her: ‘We don’t really agree with gay people’.
Another case study, Dominic, a hospital consultant when he transitioned, told interviewers he was ‘shocked at the level of ignorance’ that he encountered. ‘I don’t think the NHS is an LGBT-friendly environment,’ he said. ‘There are pockets of understanding, pockets of openness but there is a large degree of hostility.’
The survey was carried out between 21 December last year and 11 January by the Labour Research Department, a trade union research body – and followed up with a series of in-depth interviews.
Dr Mowat said: ‘The experiences related in this report show us that too many of our colleagues are still experiencing the NHS as a less than supportive place to work and be themselves.
‘The BMA is committed to doing everything in our power to change that.’
Read more about the BMA and GLADD survey
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