Marching at Pride as nurses shows we’re improving the NHS for LGBT people

Across the health service there is still a long way to go to stamp out discrimination

Drew Payne’s trust supported him and colleagues to represent the organisation, but across the health service there is still a long way to go to stamp out discrimination

Drew Payne, pictured left, with colleagues from Whittington Health at the London Pride march
Drew Payne, pictured far left, with colleagues from Whittington Health at the London Pride march

Earlier this month, I did something I have never done before. It isn’t often I get to do something new at my age, but on Saturday 6 July I marched at London Pride openly as a nurse.

I have attended London Pride many times before with friends and LGBT organisations, but never representing my profession. This year, a group of staff from my trust organised to take part in the march, with our employer’s support.

On Pride Saturday, LGBT and non-LGBT colleagues together donned our bright yellow t-shirts with the trust’s name and logo emblazoned across them, took our placards bearing our name – Whittington Health Staff Inclusion Network – and got ready to march.

Inclusivity in the NHS

Marching in Pride openly as NHS staff was an amazing feeling, made even better by the reaction we received from the crowds. People smiled and waved at us, clapping and cheering, and seemed so happy to see us.

For many LGBT patients the NHS is still not an inclusive or safe place. A report by LGBT charity Stonewall, published in November last year, said one in four LGBT people have witnessed homophobia from NHS staff, and one in seven have avoided treatment because of fear of discrimination from NHS staff.

This isn’t the first report from Stonewall highlighting poor treatment of LGBT patients – there have been many over the years, all showing similar results

We talk a lot about person-centred care in nursing, but when so many LGBT people do not feel able to be open about themselves for fear of discrimination, are we just paying lip service to it? What is the NHS doing to reverse the situation?

Whittington Health’s rainbow logo for Pride
Whittington Health NHS Trust’s rainbow logo for Pride

Making our trust a safe place for LGBT patients and staff

A recent analysis by The Guardian newspaper shows that rather than improving, the situation in our society in general could be getting worse; homophobic and transphobic crimes, including stalking, harassment and violent assault, have risen dramatically in recent years. Between 2014 and 2018, LGBT hate crime rose by 144% in England and Wales. 

What my colleagues and I did at Pride may not seem like a great step forward, but the reaction of the crowd was breathtaking. People cheered us on because they were happy and grateful for us being there.

Our presence told them that we are working towards making our trust a safe place for LGBT patients and staff, where people are treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.

Taking part in London Pride fired all of us up – our WhatsApp group lit up with message after message, and we are already making plans for next year’s event. We are also in the process of developing an LGBT network for trust staff.

People from Whittington Health at the Pride march
Colleagues from Whittington Health marching together at London Pride

Sending a message to the LGBT population

We still have work to do to make our trust a safe place for all, but we are getting there.

Every journey starts with a single step – ours began with marching at London Pride. It would be great to see more NHS staff, backed by their employers, taking part in Pride celebrations across the country, representing their organisations.

It would show the LGBT population that we value and respect them as individuals and go a long way towards making the NHS a safe place for all.

Drew Payne is a community staff nurse at Whittington Health in London

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