The National Health Service (NHS) constitution states ‘You have the right to access NHS services. You will not be refused access on reasonable grounds’ and ‘You have the right not to be unlawfully discriminated against in the provision of NHS services including on grounds of gender, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, disability (including learning disability or mental illness) or age’.
It is therefore against the NHS constitution to discriminate against anyone on the basis of their sexual orientation, and in cases of discrimination the health professional involved can be held accountable.
Under the Provision of Goods and Services Act 2007, it is illegal for lesbian, gay and bisexual people to be denied access to services on the grounds of sexual orientation.
If you feel that you are being denied access to any service, report it. Check if your GP or other health provider monitors sexual orientation.
Collecting this data will help them understand patients and provide services that are appropriate for you.
Use your rights! If you ‘come out’ to a health professional and feel that they treat you differently or negatively because of your sexual orientation, you can complain on these grounds.
Complaints can be made directly to the health service that you have the complaint about (such as the GP or the Practice Manager) or the Primary Care Trust.
Further information about how to complain can be found by calling NHS Direct 0845 46 47 or by going to www.nhs.uk
The most important thing is not to be afraid to be open and honest with your GP or any other health professional, and make sure that you access any and all NHS services that you think are appropriate.
If you are not happy with the service, say so, and get a second opinion if you think you need one.
If you are concerned with confidentiality, you can ask your GP what information is on your patient records.
Any sexual health test (including HIV) at a sexual health clinic is completely separate to your usual medical notes, and remains fully confidential.
If you feel that you are able to, be brave and come out. By doing this you will make it easier for more people to come out in the future, and for health care professionals to meet the needs of lesbian, gay and bisexual people.
For further help when making a complaint you can also go to:
Patient Advice and Liaison Service www.pals.nhs.uk
The Independent Complaints Advocacy Service, North West 0300 456 8350
Citizen’s Advice Bureau www.citizensadvice.org.uk