Doctors have been told to display rainbow flags around waiting rooms so that LGBT patients feel more comfortable disclosing their sex lives to GPs.
The British Journal of General Practice (BJGP) also recommended the Human Rights Campaign logo and “LGBT friendly” leaflets among a range of “visual cues” that should be on show to make doctors’ surgeries more “welcoming” to sexual minorities.
Researchers hope that “displaying signs or symbols that convey an accepting atmosphere” will drive up the number of patients who ‘come out’ to their doctor as LGBT.
Health chiefs argue it is important to know patients’ sexuality because homosexual and transgender people have higher rates of mental health problems and poorer physical health than heterosexual individuals.
Published Monday, the study’s authors also advise GPs to “reflect on their use of language, keeping an eye out for heteronormative phrases and assumptions”, explaining that doctors should ask patients their partner’s gender before referring to them as “he” or “she”.
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Responding to the study, Royal College of GPs vice-chair Kamila Hawthorne said: “Patients should never be made to feel as though they have to disclose their sexual orientation to their GP, if they don’t want to.
“But at the same time, they should be reassured that anything they discuss with their GP is strictly confidential, and that the consultation room is safe space to talk about things which could be affecting their health and wellbeing.”
The NHS came under fire in December when it emerged that the state healthcare provider was asking children aged 10 whether they are “comfortable in their gender”, as well as whether they are a boy, a girl, or “other”, in questionnaires sent out to schools.
An increasing number of institutions and organisations in Britain have begun to prominently feature rainbow flags so as to express support for LGBT lifestyles, with professional sportsmen donning rainbow shoelaces, clubs unveiling rainbow-themed kits, and sports associations even designating matches as “LGBT fixtures”.
And hundreds of schools have signed up to a government-approved LGBT “best practice” programme that orders UK primary and secondary schools to place “rainbow touches” throughout their grounds and classrooms, in displays which make every constituency of non-heterosexual “feel represented”.