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Unhealthy Attitudes: one in 10 witness colleagues express belief in gay 'cure'

  • One in 10 health and social care workers  directly involved in patient care have witnessed colleagues expressing the belief that someone can be ‘cured’ of being lesbian, gay or bisexual.

  • Workplace bullying prevalent among health and social care staff, with a quarter of lesbian, gay and bisexual staff experiencing homophobic  and biphobic abuse from colleagues in the last five years.

  • One in five patient-facing staff have heard colleagues make negative remarks about people who are trans, such as ‘tranny’ and ‘she-male’, in the last five years.

Research released today from Stonewall, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans equality charity, reveals that lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people are facing unhealthy attitudes from health and social care professionals.

The YouGov research conducted for Stonewall, which surveyed 3,001 health and social care workers across Britain, found that an astonishing 10% of health and social care workers directly involved in patient care have witnessed colleagues expressing the belief that lesbian, gay and bisexual people can be ‘cured’; a figure that rises to 22% among those healthcare workers in London.

Workplace bullying was also found to be commonplace in health and social work. Three in five (60%) staff directly involved in patient care, who hear discriminatory remarks about lesbian, gay and bisexual people, do not report it and a quarter (26%) of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) staff said they have personally experienced homophobic or biphobic bullying from colleagues in the last five years.

Trans people are also subject to discrimination, with negative remarks or offensive language such as ‘tranny’ and ‘she-male’ being heard by 20% of patient-facing staff from their colleagues. Evidence also shows that trans issues often remain unaddressed in training, with only a quarter of those who received equality and diversity training stating that the legal rights of trans staff and patients were covered.

Public bodies have a legal duty to advance equality and eliminate discrimination. However, many staff say they have received little or no equality and diversity training, and some of those who were surveyed even questioned its relevance. Almost three in four (72 per cent) patient-facing staff have not received training on the health needs of LGB people, the rights of same-sex partners and parents, or how to use language that is inclusive. Shockingly 28 per cent of doctors say they don’t feel confident they can respond to the specific care needs of trans patients, and 15 per cent say they don’t feel confident in their ability to meet the needs of LGB patients.

Practitioners also showed a lack of awareness of the relevance of sexual orientation to healthcare needs, with almost six in ten (57 per cent) of those with direct responsibility for patient care saying they don’t consider sexual orientation to be relevant to one’s health needs.

On the basis of the report, Stonewall is calling for central government to publicly condemn so-called ‘gay cure’ therapy and consider further steps for action to ensure the practice is unavailable, as well as calling for health and social care leaders to communicate a clear message to staff that trying to ‘cure’ lesbian, gay and bisexual people is both harmful and dangerous.

The charity is also calling for a highly visible anti-bullying and discrimination campaign across the NHS, as well as a prioritisation of fit-for-purpose training in health and social care organisations, as well as medical schools and universities.

Stonewall already works with a number of healthcare providers, NHS Trusts and social care organisations across Britain to deliver meaningful equality and diversity training. This work has shown how successful this training can be, with Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust topping Stonewall’s Top 100 Employers 2015 list.

Health and social care services have a duty to treat people fairly and equally. Yet, as this report shows, there are worrying gaps in knowledge and training relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people. This is creating a healthcare system that treats both its LGBT patients and colleagues unfairly leading to inevitable on-going health inequalities.

"Unhealthy Attitudes also contains some truly shocking revelations, such as evidence that high numbers of patient-facing staff witness colleagues stating their belief in a gay ‘cure’. This is incredibly harmful and dangerous and should be publicly denounced immediately.

We are releasing this research to highlight the importance of investing in and committing to LGBT equality. Stonewall, and LGBT people and organisations up and down the country, have the skills and resources to work with healthcare providers, health and social care education providers, NHS Trusts and social care organisations to achieve this. We want to ensure that everyone, everywhere is accepted without exception.

Ruth Hunt, CEO, Stonewall

Further statistics

  • A quarter (25 per cent) of patient-facing health and social care staff have heard their colleagues make negative remarks about lesbian, gay or bisexual people, or use language like ‘poof’ or ‘dyke’ in the last five years.

  • Only a quarter of those who received equality and diversity training said the legal rights of trans staff (27 per cent) and trans service users (23 per cent) were included.
  • A quarter (24 per cent) of those with direct patient care are not confident in their ability to respond to the specific care needs of trans patients and service users.
  • One in 20 (five per cent) patient-facing staff have witnessed other colleagues discriminate against or provide a patient or service user with poorer treatment because they are lesbian, gay or bisexual in the last five years.
  • One in six (17 per cent) who received equality and diversity training said trans issues were not included in the training.
  • One in five (20 per cent) patient-facing staff have heard colleagues making disparaging remarks about trans people.
  • One in four (25 per cent) of all health and social care staff say their employer has never provided them with any equality and diversity training.
  • Three in five (60 per cent) who hear negative remarks about LGB people do not report it.

Quotes

"I have heard negative comments, referring to individuals as ‘it’ or ‘she males’, also comments about the appearance of trans people." Fiona, Social Worker, North West

"I had this training because I specifically sought it out – I don’t think it’s covered enough for most doctors." Sophia, Doctor, East Midlands

"Managers tend to say ‘Oh, it’s only banter’." Amira, Nurse, South West

"There is a shocking lack of importance placed on awareness of issues surrounding sexual orientation." Jim, Social Worker, North East

"It would be helpful to have training on how to help staff respond to someone who returns as opposite gender. It’s the soft skills required to support staff." Ann, Practice Manager, South East

"I work with a lot of gay, lesbian and trans nurses, and they are brilliant. I am proud to work with them and would definitely not accept any discriminatory behaviours towards them." Lucy, Nurse, London

"I think we should have more literature aimed at homosexual couples in work but head office don’t provide it to my knowledge." Dan, Pharmacy Assistant, Scotland

"A leaflet was put up on a work noticeboard that promoted gay aversion therapy. I brought this to the attention of my manager, who put the leaflet on her desk. It was taken from her desk and re-pinned on the noticeboard. I feel that (the two openly gay people in the team) were given responsibility for a response to the issue on behalf of the team and it was kept secret from others." Jane, Psychotherapist, West Midlands

"People toying with whether the person should be treated by female or male staff led to delay in providing services." Ellen, Administrator, Scotland

"Training is invariably online and pretty rubbish, to be honest." Doug, Nurse, Scotland

Further information

  • All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 3001 adults working in the health and social care sector. Fieldwork was undertaken between 18th September to 17th October 2014. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of occupation.

  • Stonewall carries out a range of research into the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people, as well as benchmarking for businesses and organisations.

  • The Workplace Equality Index benchmarks businesses and organisation, to help senior management understand performance and progress. In 2014, Stonewall introduced the Global Workplace Equality Index to assess the extent that global employers support their lesbian, gay and bisexual staff worldwide.
  • The Healthcare Equality Index benchmarks more than 40 healthcare providers and commissioners on service provision. It is a free to enter and helps organisations benchmark their progress in meeting the health and wellbeing needs of lesbian, gay and bisexual people. Many entrants are members of Stonewall’s Diversity Champions Programme.
  • In February 2015, Stonewall broadened its remit of campaigning to include trans communities. All of these measures are being adapted to include the needs of trans people.

Unhealthy Attitudes (2015)