Yesterday saw the culmination of several months of collaboration between NHS North West and the Lesbian and Gay Foundation on a brand new initiative.
'Pride in Practice' is a new standard of excellence in healthcare for lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) people, designed to help GP Practices improve the quality of the care and services they provide.
Personally I was delighted at having been able to arrange for Dr Clare Gerada, the Chair of the Royal College of GPs, to be a big part of the launch.
And Dr Gerada, taking time out from the Health and Social Care Bill, showed she really understood and supported an initiative like this. Addressing the Manchester audience via a Skype video link from her offices in London, she committed to promoting the initiative to her colleagues later this week.
Pride in practice is a support tool for GPs. It helps them to critically self-assess how their services appear to LGB patients and are experienced by them. It also provides helpful information about health needs that Doctors may not have been taught to think about, and ideas for how to innovate in their care.
The process is administered by Manchester-based charity the Lesbian and Gay Foundation, who designed the resources and road tested them with local volunteer practices. NHS North West, the Strategic Health Authority, provided the funding to complete the design project and print the workbooks and award plaques.
The launch event, held at LGF's resource centre in the centre of Manchester's gay village, was packed out with almost 70 people having booked to attend. It was standing room only for LGF's own staff at the back.
Delegates included several GP practices and health centres, representatives from 17 Primary Care Trusts and Clinical Commissioning Groups, and a small number of hospital and provider trusts interested in what they could learn too.
Already there have been enquiries about whether the scheme could be used by Dental Practices and Pharmacies as well as GPs. The aim, of course, is better healthcare in all its forms.
The proceedings were kicked off by LGF Chief Executive Paul Martin OBE, who explained how the organisation had come to the conclusion that a tool like this was needed and had put together a strategic proposal which they had then asked NHS North West to support.
LGF are also strategic partners of the Department of Health, so although the implementation begins in North West England, I'm sure they will be carefully examining how the principles can be applied elsewhere, while having respect to local stakeholders and initiatives.
Paul was followed by Dennis Baldwin, LGF's project manager for this development, who explained how Pride in Practice operates.
Shahnaz Ali, Director of Equality, Inclusion and Human Rights at NHS North West, explained the SHA's long history of engaging in strategic partnership with stakeholder organisations such as LGF, and how that operated in both directions as an equal partnership. She said,
'Despite the huge changes going on in the NHS, GPs will remain the first point of contact for the vast majority of people who need health care – that’s why a project like this is so important. Lesbian, gay and bisexual people have a right to feel safe and welcome in the NHS and have equality of access to services.'
Shahnaz went on to introduce Dr Clare Gerada, who appeared on screen via a video link from the headquarters of the Royal College of GPs in London.
Personally I was delighted at having been able to persuade such an important figure to appear.
Dr Gerada and I had only become acquaintances via Twitter because of our mutual interests in the twists and turns of the health bill. When I had explained to her what 'Pride in Practice' was about, however, she made the time to contribute to the launch, even though her diary meant she had to be in London.
I was even more personally flattered when she began her contribution by asking to see where I was over the video link.
Although she has an important position as the Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, Clare maintains a very active interest in hands on practice. She often tweets about the pleasure in running her surgery, and explained that her own experience in dealing with LGBT patients arose from the fact that her practice is in London's Vauxhall district, which has a large gay and trans population.
Clare praised the quality of the content in the 'Pride in Practice' workbook and the positive aims of the scheme as a whole. She said she would be promoting it to her GP colleagues across the country and thought it should be discussed at the Academy of Royal Colleges and promoted throughout all heatlh professions.
Building on experience
The initiative builds on the experience gained from a previous pilot project in GP surgeries.
Two years ago, NHS North West provided backing for an LGF campaign which encouraged surgeries to display LGF Helpline posters in their waiting rooms as a visible sign that the surgery was a welcoming environment to LGB people. Although well received in some practices, the resistance and hostility which the project encountered from others led to the proposal for Pride in Practice (PiP).
The original poster project continues, expanded now to the whole North West region via the support of the five PCT Clusters: Cheshire and Wirral; Cumbria; Greater Manchester; Lancashire; and Merseyside. As LGF doesn't operate directly in those areas, the scheme has been adapted to signpost local voluntary services providing the same kinds of support and advice.
Meanwhile, 'Pride in Practice' has already become a success just via word of mouth. Before the launch 17 practices had already signed up. Others who are interested in doing so can complete a form here.
The initial aim is to sign up sixty practices before the end of March. After that, the scheme will grow according to the resources available, and according to which parts of the NHS want to support promoting it in their area. The scheme fits in very much, of course, with the ideas about GPs having a bigger part in innovating better services.
The surgeries that sign up to PiP will be expected to create a welcoming environment – including using inclusive language and imagery, monitor sexual orientation, consulting with LGB patients, getting involved with health promotion and outreach, and training staff on specific LGB issues.
Help on how to undertake sexual orientation monitoring (and ask sensitive questions well) is available through this online resource.
During the launch, the two surgeries who had acted as guinea pigs, testing the approach by completing the exercise themselves, received the first GOLD recognition plaques, to display on the wall in their premises. Patients using services will be able to tell from these plaques how well advanced their surgery is.
To register for the Pride in Practice launch visit: http://www.lgf.org.uk/prideinpractice or for more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org