‘Services should reflect all’: LGBT Foundation demand voice in DevoManc discussion

The devolution of health care funding to Greater Manchester needs to ‘truly reflect all’ in the region, according to a leading spokesperson in the LGBT community.

Devolution is all the talk around Manchester at the minute, particularly surrounding our health care.

From April of this year Greater Manchester is taking control of £6billion of public funding for health and social care as part of the controversial devolution deal struck between the region and the UK government.

This will mean the transfer of powers and responsibilities for all of our health and social care from national government to all 37 NHS and local authorities in Greater Manchester.

However, the  LGBT Foundation – which represents the LGBT community in the city – wants to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people across Greater Manchester have their input by informing them of the consultation via their various media channels, presenting findings from ongoing research and contacting other LGBT-specific groups and organisations.

Estimates from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) suggest that around 215,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people live across the Greater Manchester region.

Although the final draft of the Strategic Partnership Board plan does highlight its aim to improve healthcare for all in the city, the LGBT community and the unique challenges that they face in their health and social care are not specifically mentioned.

As well as this, the Taking Part Together survey also does not ask participants about their sexual preference, although it does permit them to describe their gender as non-binary.

Andrew Gilliver, Community Involvement Manager at LGBT Foundation, told MM that it was vital that the LGBT community makes its voice heard.

“We need local services to truly reflect the needs of all in our communities,” Mr Gilliver told MM.

“To be able to do this people should be represented across all localities, and health and care providers need to be understanding of the barriers many LGBT people currently face when accessing public services.”

Evidence shows that many LGBT people have poorer health outcomes, poorer wellbeing and greater health needs compared to the general population.

They are more susceptible to a range of mental health problems, drug problems and cancer risk factors, with older LGBT people more likely to live alone and experience social isolation.

Despite these issues, members of the LGBT community are less likely to access mainstream health services out of fear that they will suffer unequal treatment. 

“Where LGBT people are using services, their sexual orientation or transgender status is rarely taken into account, meaning they remain invisible and they are likely to have worse health outcomes because they are falling through the net,” Mr Gilliver said.

“Obviously LGBT people are part of everyday society but with very specific support needs and there is still a lack of understanding of what  lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender [people] may require from their local health and care services.

“Enabling lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people to feel welcome and supported across all health and care services is the start of being able to understand the diverse and complex issues many in our communities face.”

The fact that LGBT people are not explicitly mentioned in the Strategic Partnership Board’s plan does not help to allay concerns that the plan may represent a missed opportunity to benefit the local LGBT population.

Mr Gilliver is confident that there are things that all organisations can do to better understand the needs of their local LGBT patients and service users.

“Championing sexual orientation monitoring for service users and staff across all public services is a key organisational priority for LGBT Foundation,” he said.

“Monitoring sexual orientation is a proven way to address our invisibility and the current lack of evidence.

“LGBT Foundation also supports the principle of trans status monitoring as there is a significant lack of evidence about the needs and experiences of trans people.

“We believe that monitoring, sensitively implemented, is a clear way to address that lack of evidence and make our needs and experiences heard.

“We would also like every GP practice to sign up to our Pride in Practice initiative which is a quality assurance service for GP practices that strengthens and develops practice staff’s relationships with their LGBT patients within the local community.”

Manchester City Council assured MM that while the Strategic Partnership Board’s overall plan may not mention the LGBT community explicitly, their particular needs are being considered by Greater Manchester’s ten metropolitan boroughs whose individual plans make up the overarching plan, as are the needs of every other community group.

And Lord Peter Smith, Chair of Greater Manchester’s Health and Social Care Strategic Partnership Board, said that the more people from the LGBT community partake in the Taking Part Together survey, the greater their ability to help them.

“We’re very glad that the LGBT Foundation is working with us and encouraging members to get involved in the Taking Charge campaign,” he told MM.

“We fully recognise the value and importance of every person in Greater Manchester having a voice in improving health outcomes for the region.

“This feedback is not only welcome but vital, as it will be used to tackle some of the region’s health problems over the next five years, which are some of the worst in the country.”

Mr Gulliver agreed that the survey was a step in the right direction, claiming that many found it easier to participate in the debate once the conversation has been started.

But he reiterated that the LGBT Foundation will always be there for those who needed a voice.

“We know that 90% of those in our communities are happy to answer a question about their sexual orientation, but they don’t want to have to be the one who initiates the conversation,” he said.

“Obviously we want more LGBT people to have a voice and let their local health and care provider know what their needs are directly, but if this is not possible or too difficult we want people to get in touch with us if their needs are not being met.”

Image courtesy of Julie Missbutterflies, via Flickr, with thanks

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