LGBT Health
NHS Choices

Access to healthcare for LGBT people

Everyone is entitled to receive good quality healthcare. As a lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans (LGBT) person, you have the same rights to healthcare as anyone else. You are entitled to the same standard of care as heterosexual and cis people in the NHS.

As an LGBT person you may be at more risk of certain health conditions. There is evidence that LGBT people drink and smoke and may be more likely to take recreational drugs (e.g. cannabis). Some LGBT people have depression, anxiety, self-harm or have problems with eating. This may be because, for some people, being LGBT still isn’t accepted by friends, family or work colleagues. You have a right to be treated as well as anyone else regardless of your gender identity or sexual orientation.

You have the right to be open with your GP and healthcare professionals about your sexuality/gender identity and to have care appropriate to your sexuality/gender identity. Many LGBT people who come out to their GPs and healthcare professionals have a good experience. If you do not have a good experience, for example if you believe you have been discriminated against, there are several options.

Different ways to access healthcare

If you are worried about being treated less well by your healthcare professional because you are LGBT, you can:

  • Make a complaint (see below). This should not mean you get worse care.
  • Consider getting your healthcare elsewhere. It may be possible to use different services. For example, GUM clinics or Well Women clinics are sometimes more sensitive to the sexual health needs of LGBT people. Find your local GUM clinic here.
  • Sometimes, taking a friend or partner with you to an appointment can make a difference. You may feel more confident and you may feel that you get better service with another person there

Should I make a complaint?

Bad experiences may discourage you from accessing the healthcare services that you need and are entitled to. If things go wrong it can be hard to know what to do. You may not find it easy to make a complaint or to change doctors. You may not have any choice about which healthcare professional you see. You may think that if you complain, you will get worse service in future. If you need a lot of help from a healthcare professional, for example in order to access gender-affirming medical treatment, you may be reluctant to “rock the boat”.

The Equality Act legislation means that it is illegal for anyone in the NHS to refuse to treat you or to treat you unfairly because of their prejudice against LGBT people. Sometimes very clear discriminatory attitudes towards LGBT people are shown by healthcare professionals or NHS staff and this is unacceptable.

However sometimes discrimination can be less obvious. Healthcare professionals not only have a duty to treat you equally but to recognise that that your sexuality or gender identity may mean that you need different treatment or different care. Sometimes this can be as simple as making clear that your partner is recognised as more than a friend, and welcomed rather than tolerated at an appointment. It might just be acknowledgement of your gender identity or sexuality. However it might also be about making assumptions which prevent you getting access to care you need. Subtle discrimination, including assuming everyone is straight or cis, makes it harder for us as LGBT people to feel comfortable using NHS services.The NHS recognises that this is a problems and is committed to change.

If you are treated badly, and want to complain, remember you have a right to do this and you should not get worse care as a result. There are also groups who can help you and support you in making a complaint. Stonewall has a list of groups who may support you, see link below.

Even things that seem quite minor are worth raising. For instance, sometimes healthcare professionals do not acknowledge a person’s same-gender partner or they use the wrong pronouns. Sometimes assumptions are made about your healthcare needs, for example assuming you do not need cervical screening if you have identified yourself as a lesbian, or assuming you do not need prostate screening if you have asked them to change their records to show you are female.

Remember that as an LGBT person you have the same right to access to healthcare as everyone else. LGBT taxpayers are estimated to fund 60,000 NHS posts. If you are having problems getting good healthcare, the links below may help.

Resources

Stonewall information on the Equality Act and what it covers

Advice for men on coming out to your GP

GLADD is the association of LGBT doctors and dentists

Information on health concerns and discrimination

Research on LGBT health concerns is available at Stonewall Cymru

Unhealthy Attitudes is a report on discrimination in healthcare

Research on Trans mental health is available at Gires