May 242012
Odhrán Allen, director of mental health

Gay, lesbian and bisexual people are at risk of receiving inadequate healthcare because of assumptions and prejudices among some healthcare workers, a leading advocate for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community has warned.

Odhrán Allen, director of mental health issues with the Gay Lesbian Equality Network (Glen), was speaking at the publication of an evaluation report on a pilot project to train healthcare professionals in caring for lesbian, gay and bisexual patients at the end of their lives.

The project, which saw 200 staff in St Vincent’s University Hospital, Beaumont Hospital and St Francis Hospice participate in the 50-minute training course between November 2010 and June last year, promoted “five steps to best practice” in caring for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender patients.

The evaluation report found that after taking the training, comfort with LGBT terminology increased from 40 per cent to 80 per cent, confidence in providing care to LGBT patients increased from 20 per cent to 60 per cent, and, the level of knowledge of LGBT healthcare issues rose from 20 per cent to 75 per cent.

Paul D’Alton, head of the department of psycho-oncology at St Vincent’s hospital, said there were “certainly gaps” in the care afforded to lesbian and gay people.

“Sometimes it’s with the best of intentions and sensitivity that people just skirt around issues, in a genuine effort not to offend.”

He said supporting people’s relationships with those most important to them, particularly in palliative care, was essential to caring for them. Mr Allen said there were times when health was directly related to a person’s homosexuality, particularly in the areas of mental health, sexual health and elder care.