CREDIT: This story was first seen in The Telegraph
GPs should display rainbow posters in their waiting rooms to encourage gay and bisexual patients to come out to their doctor, experts have said.
The Telegraph writes that the Human Rights Campaign logo, as well as ‘LGBT friendly’ leaflets, should also be distributed to encourage more people to disclose their sexuality, according to the British Journal of General Practice (BJGP).
The measures are some of a range of ‘visual clues’ suggested to increase the roughly 50% sexual orientation disclosure rate among gay and lesbian patients to their GP.
The analysis came as the Royal College of GPs said the consultation room should become a ‘safe space’ for that community.
It follows controversial new NHS guidelines announced last year whereby patients will be asked about their sexuality as a matter of course.
Health chiefs argue that gay, bisexual and other LGBT people are at greater risk of certain conditions, such as mental ill-health and those associated with heavy drinking, and that knowing their orientation is important for their care.
The policy shift was criticised by the Family Doctor Association, however, as ‘potentially intrusive and offensive’.
The most wide-ranging review of its kind so far, the BJGP study recommends: “There are some changes that are easily implemented and inexpensive, including displaying signs or symbols that convey an accepting atmosphere, such as a rainbow symbol or the Human Rights Campaign logo.”
By contrast, religious symbols or icons, as well as those associated with the military, were seen as hindering disclosure.
It also advises GPs to avoid ‘heteronormative phrases and assumptions’ such as referring to a patient’s partner as ‘he’ or ‘she’, rather than asking the gender.
Undertaken by the University of Sussex, the review of 31 previous studies recommended more ‘LGBT-specific knowledge and communication skills’ are incorporated into medical school courses.
It found medical students in the UK lack confidence in how to use appropriate language when talking about such issues.
Professor Kamila Hawthorne, vice chair of the Royal College of GP, said: “Patients should never be made to feel as though they have to disclose their sexual orientation to their GP, if they don’t want to.
“But at the same time, they should be reassured that anything they discuss with their GP is strictly confidential, and that the consultation room is safe space to talk about things which could be affecting their health and wellbeing.
Some NHS organisations already ask patients about their sexual orientation, however national bosses now want the practice implemented across England by 2019.
Under the guidance, doctors and nurses should ask all patients which options best describes them: hetrosexual or straight, gay or lesbian, bisexual, other sexual, orientation, not sure, not stated and not known.
NHS leaders said blanket monitoring was necessarily in order to comply with the Equalities Act, under which sexual orientation is a protected characteristic.
However, individual trusts will be able to opt out and patients will not be obliged to answer.
The new BJGP study found that patients were more likely to disclose their sexuality the longer they had known their GP.