Sixteen doctors and medical students have spoken out about their experiences of working in the NHS as gay, bisexual or transgender individuals in BMA report.
Around 6% of the UK’s population are estimated to be gay, bisexual or transgender.
Legislation has done much to help improve attitudes; including the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003, the Gender Recognition Act 2004, the Civil Partnership Act 2004 and the Equality Act (sexual orientation) Regulations 2007, say the report authors.
However, research carried out by the BMA in 2005, and by Stonewall in 2007, showed that despite these laws, many individuals continue to experience harassment, bullying and homophobic attitudes whilst at work.
Today’s report, in recognition of February lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender history month, demonstrates this is still the case in 2009.
Whilst some of the 16 interviewees report that they are ‘out and proud’ at work and that this causes no problems for them amongst colleagues, they also told of instances of discrimination, or reluctance to be honest because of the conservatism amongst other staff.
Rowan, a transgender medical student said: "I don’t know of anyone who’s transitioned at the school before; I’m probably the first. I’ve come out to a few friends within Medicine, and have faced not only a lack of understanding but unfortunately also a lack of willingness to understand. Most medics have never come across a trans person and particularly not a trans person who identifies outside of the gender binary."
But Dr Justin Varney, co-chair of the BMA’s Equal Opportunities Committee, highlighted the huge contribution made by gay, bisexual and transgender colleagues to the health service.
"I am always inspired by the way in which they turn their own experiences of being different into being better, more holistic doctors that consider the breadth of their patients’ lifestyles and experiences when supporting their care."
But he is critical of the NHS for doing little to tackle discrimination and its poorer investment in anti-homophobia and anti-transphobia campaigns than in those for racism or disability. The Health Care Commission has followed suite, he said, by not employing the same level of scrutiny across equality strands.