No one should be left behind in a fair and just society

Anne Marie Rafferty and Tracey Budding 17 May 2021 RCN President

RCN President Anne Marie Rafferty and Deputy President Tracey Budding reflect on what we can learn from the COVID-19 pandemic to better support LGBTQI staff and patients.

Today marks International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. 
 
31 years ago today, the World Health Organization declassified homosexuality as a mental disorder. This pinnacle moment in history is now marked every year and used as an opportunity to draw attention to the violence and discrimination experienced by LGBTQI communities around the world. 
 
This year’s theme is ‘Together: Resisting, Supporting, Healing!’ and aims to address a range of issues the pandemic has brought to light concerning inequality. 
 
We’ve known about the disproportionate toll of mental and physical health in LGBTQI communities for a long time. But around the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities, including those based on sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics, with often devastating impacts for LGBTQI people, who are already among the most marginalized and excluded.
 
Research published last month by the LGBT Foundation found that the pandemic was far from a ‘great equaliser’, and reports that social distancing requirements have significantly impacted LGBTQI people who already experience higher rates of poor mental health and are likely to live alone. 
 
At the height of the pandemic, there were also concerns raised for populations at high risk for HIV who may have been unable to access sexual, reproductive and genitourinary medicine care after health services saw a drastic reduction in their capacity and ability to deliver their regular service. 
 
What we must learn from these experiences is that any disruption to a service, is also an opportunity to better it, and as restrictions begin to ease across the UK, that there is no better time to start the conversations on how we can better support LGBTQI people. 
 
We need programmes that actively encourage people to seek help when they need it; services must be upgraded to meet the increased demand for both sexual and mental health needs, and we must train health care staff working in A&E to better support their LGBTQI patients and their specific care needs.
 
We all have a role to play in educating ourselves on how to better support both our LQBTQI patients and colleagues. On 8 September, the RCN will be hosting a virtual event to celebrate LGBTQI nurses, midwives, healthcare support workers and student nurses. During this event, we’ll be launching the LGBTQI edition of our Nursing Whilst… series, and adding to our audio-recordings the lived experience of nurses, midwives and health visitors from diverse backgrounds, and highlighting their recommendations for individuals and organisations who wish to create change.

If you have a story you would like to share for Nursing Whilst…, please reach out to the RCN’s lead for Diversity and Equality, Wendy Irwin.

 

Further reading

COVID-19 and LGBT Sexual Health: Lessons learned, digital futures?
LGBT Foundation 
 
Head shots of Anne Marie Rafferty and Tracey Budding

Anne Marie Rafferty and Tracey Budding

RCN President and Deputy President

Page last updated - 17/10/2021