Nigel Burgess

Optometrist at Boots Opticians, Specsavers and Chairman of Salford &Trafford Local Optical Committee

It is important to support LGBT people and remove any potential barriers so that we can discuss anything that might be relevant to their health and wellbeing.

There is so much we can tell about a person’s health through their eyes and understanding a little more about them helps too. For example, in male gay culture, a bear is often a larger or hairier man and there may be certain issues we can look out for around high blood pressure, obesity and diabetes, all of which can affect the eyes.

With HIV & sexual health, if a person is HIV+ we want to make sure that the virus isn’t affecting the retina. We also know that syphilis can cause damage to the retina.

We would never want to alarm our patients so it helps to be able to talk openly and sensitively if we find anything that needs further treatment from another professional.

For our trans and non-binary patients we are looking at improving how we capture their data in terms of respecting correct gender identity and trans status. Many trans people find it difficult to access some opticians when frames for spectacles are so often gendered. It can be helpful to put on special events for our trans communities to come along and try on any glasses they wish in a safe environment.

I have learned so much and I think optometry services could take more advantage of Pride in Practice. Our award is proudly displayed, and this has prompted a lot of conversation from our LGBT patients. They ask us what services are available to them and it helps them to feel safe with us.

One young man didn’t know how to tell his parents he was gay so he confided in us because we had known him for years and he eventually felt able to talk to his parents. Without seeing an affirmative LGBT poster on our walls, he wouldn’t have had the courage to do that.

The Healthy Living Optical Practice programme is now picking up in Greater Manchester to support public health by promoting messages and campaigns, offering brief advice, signposting and some public health services including LGBT awareness.