Inclusivity and learning from our patients

Last month saw the return of the annual Pride Month. A month long festival in which the LGBT+ community come together in celebration and to campaign to call for the mainstream acceptance of sexual diversity and raising rights issues and injustices associated with the cause.

Huge strides have been made because of Pride in securing rights and fairer representation for the LGBT+ community, but there is still work to do when it comes to acceptance on a more local level.

At Care UK we like to believe we are an open and inclusive space for patients from all walks of life to comfortably use our services without fear of judgement, preconception or bias. And though as a company we strive to always be inclusive, respectful and provide excellent care to anyone who needs it, individually we may sometimes inadvertently not give the same level of service to all patients that walk through our doors.

One patient in particular, Katie, a transgender patient who used our St Mary’s Minor Injury Unit (MIU), was so displeased with the treatment she received while there that she wrote to the service and complained, as Penny Daniels, hospital director at St Mary’s NHS Treatment Centre, explains:

“Katie attended our MIU service 18 months ago as a walk-in patient, and at the time was undergoing the transition of male to female and was living as a female. The practitioner that assessed Katie continually referred to her as ‘mate’ which offended Katie as she felt the practitioner was disregarding the gender she wished to be addressed as. Katie then wrote to us to complain about the way she was treated at the centre.”

As part of the response to the complaint, Katie was invited back in to the centre to meet with the practitioner, lead nurse and Penny Daniels to discuss how the experience had made her feel. Penny continues:

“At the meeting, the practitioner apologised to Katie if the way he had addressed her offended her, and explained that he refers to all as ‘mate’, male or female. And while Katie accepted this may be a term of endearment, she felt it was unprofessional and, in her case, she felt the use of the word was offensive given its masculine connotations. The conversation led on to Katie’s journey through transition and the prejudices she had faced and continues to face.

“The barriers that Katie has come across have made her more aware to others’ insensitivity in everyday language, and she wanted to meet us to share her feelings on her consultation. Katie even kindly offered to speak to other members of the team and raise awareness of the journey, struggles and battles a trans person has to deal with on a regular basis and even in healthcare settings.”

According to the latest Stonewall LGBT in Britain Trans Report, two in five trans people (41 per cent) said that healthcare staff lacked the understanding of specific trans health needs when accessing general healthcare services in the last year. And seven percent of trans people said they have been refused care because they are LGBT, while trying to access healthcare services in the last year.

“At all the meetings Katie has had with the teams, she was initially met with a reluctance to engage by attendees for fear of offending her in some way. However, she is such a warm, confident and friendly person that soon everyone was getting involved and asking further questions related to her treatment, surgery, experiences and lifestyle. Most importantly, Katie got across the importance of and need to treat all people as individuals, no matter their personal circumstance.

“Thanks to Katie’s open, honest and fearless approach, where no question of transition, her own feelings, acceptance or anything else was out of bounds, the colleagues left the sessions with a much better understanding of transgender issues and what they can do personally to provide a full and inclusive service to all their patients.”

If we want to truly demonstrate respect, understanding and fairness, and meaningfully tackle discrimination and exclusion, we need to ensure that the language we us is consistent with these intentions. The words that we use should give a clear message to everyone that we value diversity and respect individual differences.

By listening to our patients’ experiences and challenging our own preconceptions, we can grow together and work to actively make sure our service is truly inclusive for everyone.