LGBT people with terminal illnesses face discrimination from healthcare proffesionals, a major new study has found.
A staggering 74% of terminal patients who identify as LGBT said they did not feel confident services would be sensitive to their needs.
As a result, LGBT people often delay accessing care and are more likely to experience unmanaged symptoms and pain at the end of their lives due to the concerns.
Marie Curie, which provides care and support to people with terminal illnesses, funded the report following a string of concerns raised by patients.
One man, Jonathan (above, left), lost his partner, Barry (right), to bowell cancer in 2015, said the constant need to have to ‘come out’ during their treatments put a serious strain on the process.
He said: “It seemed I had to come out every day – multiple times a day sometimes – because most of the world is a heteronormative environment.
“I got in touch with an advocacy helpline, and the receptionist at the end of the phone was nonplussed when I said that I was gay.
“She assumed I was calling about my wife.
“I was trying to find any possible way of getting help and support but her reaction – well, it put me off in a way.
“It did make me want to just not pursue that particular avenue.”
Another, whose partner is terminally ill, reported a consultant continuing to refer to him as the patient’s brother, despite explaining more than 10 occasions that he was his partner.
The charity is now calling for healthcare professionals to implement a string of ten changes to avoid continuing the discrimination.
They include ending heterosexually-framed questions and assumptions, respecting individuals’ preferences for disclosing sexual identity or gender history and explicitly including partners in discussion.
Lead researcher, Dr Richard Harding of the Cicely Saunders Institute, Kings College London, says: “Despite legislative changes and policy initiatives to improve healthcare for LGBT people in the UK, discrimination within health and social care services unfortunately remains common.
“People living with terminal illnesses are already often at their most vulnerable, so we have a duty to address the attitudes and behaviours among healthcare professionals that contribute to negative experiences of care.
“What this research accomplishes, is to provide individuals, services and institutions with simple, low cost recommendations that can contribute towards improving care experiences.
“However, we also conclude that focussed public health strategies and training and education amongst all healthcare professionals are needed if we are to bring about widespread and consistent improvement in the care that LGBT people receive.”
The research has been led by researchers at the Cicely Saunders Institute at Kings College London together with researchers from University of Oxford, University of Nottingham, University of Brighton, St Joseph’s Hospice, and Community partners GMFA.