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14 February 2023

Inclusive health and social care: Improving communication between clinicians and LGBT+ people

Research from King’s College London featured as an alert on NIHR Evidence, a platform which aims to bridge the gap between research findings and practice.

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Research from King’s College London featured as an alert on NIHR Evidence, a platform which aims to bridge the gap between research findings and practice. 

The featured research looked at communication relating to sexual orientation, gender identity and gender history in the context of serious illness. Recommendations from this study could improve inclusive communication between clinicians and patients, including people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT+).

NIHR Evidence provides accessible, plain language summaries of health and care research that’s funded by the NIHR. Each NIHR Alert is selected by professionals and members of the public as research that should inform practice.

The NIHR is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care and was established in 2006 to ‘create a health research system in which the NHS supports outstanding individuals, working in world-class facilities, conducting leading-edge research focused on the needs of patients and the public’.

We are delighted that the study was selected by NIHR reviewers for inclusion on NIHR Evidence. We aimed to understand and represent the needs of all key stakeholders within the evidence-based guide. The goal was to develop something useful that it is ultimately used by clinicians and educators to improve inclusivity of communication around sexual orientation and gender-related matters. We are confident that this NIHR Alert will help our findings and guide to reach further, and move us closer to that goal

Dr Debbie Braybrook, Research Associate, ACCESSCare

In the featured study, researchers interviewed 74 people including LGBT+ people who were seriously ill, their significant others, and clinicians.

This is the largest qualitative study on communication about gender and sexual orientation in healthcare to include LGBT+ patients, significant others and health and social care professionals.

They found that clinicians want to provide inclusive care but are often unsure how to talk about sexual orientation and gender.

LGBT+ people who were seriously ill and those significant to them appreciated neutral language that does not make assumptions, and to be asked questions about their identity as relevant to their care. They also valued signs of LGBT+ inclusivity in organisations. Avoiding discussions about identity and relationships may increase health inequalities for LGBT+ people.

The NHS has a legal and ethical duty to reduce health inequalities, but LGBT+ people continue to report discrimination and exclusion. This can be attributed in part to poor communication between clinicians and patients.

The researchers used their findings to develop the ABC of LGBT+ Inclusive Communication: A guide for health and social care professionals. The research team worked with LGBT+ community members and clinicians to refine the guide. The findings also led to the development of a linked set of posters, for use in health and social care organisations.

Read more about the research

Read the full study in BMJ Quality & Safety

Fill out this form to receive the LGBT+ inclusive communication posters

Funding: This study is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) under its Research for Patient Benefit programme (Grant Reference Number PB-PG-0816-20001), and supported by the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration South London (NIHR ARC South London) at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care.

In this story

Debbie Braybrook

Research Associate

Richard  Harding

Vice Dean (International) and Director and Global Lead, Cicely Saunders Institute of Palliative Care, Policy & Rehabilitation

Katherine Bristowe

Herbert Dunhill Senior Lecturer

Katherine Sleeman

Laing Galazka Chair in Palliative Care, Honorary Consultant in Palliative Medicine