The NHS must start monitoring sexual orientation

So it’s been a while since I wrote anything, and – to some of my friends – today’s post might seem a massive double standard. This is because today’s post is a petition, and my post on Facebook yesterday was about my apathy towards lobbying for change at present.

I specifically resonated with a satirical comment on The News Quiz on BBC Radio 4: ‘The last two years have drained all of the outrage out of me … I have outrage fatigue’. I then elucidated on Facebook (perhaps as my reaction rather than my considered response) that I have little energy to care about public sector pay or cuts any longer, having become tired of attempting to bring about viable change in the wake of the Brexit vote and recent election.

I then find myself, today, face-to-face with a cause I feel passionate about – health inequality. Immediately, I find myself searching the internet to see whether a petition on this specific point of health inequality has been raised. It hasn’t. I quickly piece one together – or, rather, Matthew Todd’s. He’s written it in his latest book: Straight Jacket: How to Be Gay and Happy. Now, a book is a fine place to put an idea, and I can take no credit for his words whatsoever in reproducing them here (with appropriate referencing, and therefore I hope he doesn’t mind). However, I’m not confident that NHS England or UK Parliament will read his book. I hope they do. Failing that, there’s a small chance they might read the below petition, should it gain enough signatures.

The petition is as follows: “NHS England: The NHS must start monitoring sexual orientation”. My wording is taken from p303 of Matthew Todd’s book:

So many of those working with LGBT people told me we urgently need to monitor sexual orientation at the point of contact with the NHS. We need to see more clearly how the inequalities manifest. 

NHS service users are asked to declare ethnicity. We know black people have a genetic difference that puts them at greater risk of developing diabetes and so services are tailored to them. We know, for instance, that people from some countries have a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency or of sickle-cell anaemia.

It’s clear that gay people have statistically higher levels of alcohol and drug misuse and there is a strong probability that this will result in higher levels of certain cancers and diseases related to stress. We know that rates of suicide in men in the UK are huge, but we don’t know what proportion of those are gay or bisexual.

We need to find out exactly what’s going on. We also need to look seriously at the problems faced specifically by LGBT people from different cultures. This is a role for the mainstream NHS.

Matthew’s wording speaks for itself, so I won’t elaborate further. I will, however, happily address any questions or comments raised through the comments section below.

To return, then, to my initial point. How have I moved from total apathy to re-engagement within the space of a day? Is it because I care more about LGBT issues than public sector pay? Well, no. Public sector pay puts my food on the table and pays my rent.

It’s really to do with a focus on small, measurable and achievable goals. Our narrative has become somewhat lost in a general anger against ‘cuts’, but when we focus on specifics in measured, research-informed ways, the possibility to succeed seems – to me at least – greater. 

Todd’s language is neither angry nor impassioned, but rational and clear in light of basic evidence. Similarly, I can support the need for improved public sector pay based on data on staff shortages, recruitment difficulties and levels of productivity and sickness in workforces that are not valued: Improving public sector pay would improve the care, productivity and morale of our public services. 

But outrage? No! I’ve been outraged about these things and it left me angry and bitter, and didn’t help me to achieve positive change. Let’s frame our arguments in terms of what positive changes we need and what benefits they will bring, as much as possible.

You can sign the petition here:

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