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Rural GP practices aim to become more accessible to gay and transgender patients

An initiative to make rural practices in Scotland more welcoming and accessible for gay, bisexual and transgender patients is being taken up by GPs around the world, say organisers.

Dr David Hogg, chair of the Rural GP Association, and a GP in Arran, says he has received feedback from colleagues in Norway, Australia, and Canada who want to use the information they have put together for practices.

Working with paediatric clinical research fellow Dr Thom O’Neill, the Rural GP Association has developed a series of posters and information leaflets for practices in a bid to encourage more LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning) patients – especially young patients – to use primary care.

Dr O’Neill points out that young LGBTQ patients are more likely to use the emergency department when they want to see a doctor because of a perception that they will have a negative experience at the GP or because they see A&E as a more anonymous option.

But what that means is they are not getting the most appropriate care, he says.

He points out that:

  • Half of all LGBTQ youth are bullied at school
  • 25% of homeless youth in the UK are LGBTQ+
  • Only half of Scottish young people feel safe and supported with their sexuality and gender identity in the NHS
  • LGBTQ youth are at increased risk for sexually transmitted infections
  • Over half of all LGBTQ children self-harm, rising to over 80% for black and minority ethnic youth

‘A lot of this is just about improving communication and improving awareness of the practice team and little changes can reap easy rewards,’ said Dr Hogg.

He added that in the short time since the initiative launched, practices have reported that they have made greater connections with local youth groups, all of which makes the GP more accessible.

Dr O’Neill added, the things we have suggested are very simple, it’s not that GPs are providing bad care it is about simple communication things.’