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Exploring the individual experiences of LGBT+ patients with general practice staff: an interview-based study

02 July 2022
15 min read
Volume 33 · Issue 7

Abstract

In this qualitative study, Sophie Whyman and Claudio Di Lorito explore the experiences of LGBT+ patients in general practice

Background:

General practitioners (GPs) are usually the first port of call for health-related issues. The attitudes and behaviours of staff working in general practice can influence patient outcomes and access to services.

Aims:

This study aimed to explore the experiences of LGBT+ patients with staff working in general practice.

Methods:

Qualitative interviews were conducted with LGBT+ participants recruited through the York LGBT Forum and social media and analysed using thematic analysis.

Findings:

Six participants were included. The participants reported mixed experiences, which had a great impact on their disclosure, treatment outcomes and future service access. Recommended improvements included standardised training and administrative changes.

Conclusion:

There is a need for standardised NHS-wide inclusiveness training to support staff in general practice to better understand non-heteronormative experiences in their clinical practice.

Over the past few decades, society as a whole has become more aware and accepting of individuals identifying as LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other identities) (Payne, 2013; Flores, 2019). LGBT+ rights and awareness have been improved through legislative changes (Gender Recognition Act 2004; Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013), as well as advocacy efforts and portrayal in the media. Nonetheless, society in general remains widely heteronormative (assuming that heterosexuality – being sexually attracted solely to people of a different sex – is the preferred or normal mode of sexual orientation) and cisnormative (assuming that cisgender – gender identity that match the person's sex – is the norm (Logie et al, 2018)). This perpetuates a double standard making LGBT+ individuals exposed to the risk of discrimination, which can be blatant, such as bullying and hate crimes, or more subtle and implicit in areas including education (Ng et al, 2019), work (McFadden and Crowley-Henry, 2018) and social media (Abreu and Kenny, 2018). One setting where such experiences can also be harmful is healthcare. Research found that healthcare settings may display heteronormative and cisnormative values (Davy and Siriwardena, 2012; Mkhize and Maharaj, 2020) such as by recording only patients' biological sex and not gender identity (Dolan et al, 2020), potentially neglecting identities such as transgender identities.

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