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Healthcare systems in the EU are discriminating against LGBT+ people

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A study by the European Commission finds LGBT+ people face inequality and discrimination when accessing healthcare services.

The research is being conducted by the European Commission. It began back in April 2016 and is expected to run for 24 months in total.

Across 12 focus groups in six EU Member States; Belgium, Bulgaria, Italy, Lithuania, Poland and the UK, the study looks to gain an insight into the treatment that LGBT+ people receive when seeking healthcare in Europe.

Various forms of discrimination were reported, with the study revealing inequality and discrimination based on sexuality and gender identity in the health system, on an individual and institutional basis.

These inequalities were also found to be present in all six healthcare systems, whether LGBT+ people are protected by wider politics, or not.

These instances are often the result of prejudiced views held by health practitioners as a result of cultural and social norms.

This mind-set where patients are heteronormative by default results in many health practitioners being ignorant to the lives of LGBT+ people, putting up barriers to the treatment LGBT+ people will receive.

© Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr

Related: New app designed to revolutionise LGBT+ healthcare

There is a lack of education and research into the physical and mental needs of LGBT+ people. For example, LGBT+ people are more likely to experience mental health issues, therefore it is important health practitioners familiarise themselves with the LGBT+ experience.

Much of the discrimination discovered was against bisexual, trans and intersex people. These groups have much less visibility and therefore have even greater barriers in the healthcare system.

The study is ongoing and is interested in holding intersectional stages, to gain a better understanding of the experiences different avenues of the LGBT+ community have.

It is important to note that existing research shows that living in a rural area, being a migrant, a refugee or an asylum seeker, having a low income, being young, or being old, or living with disabilities can all contribute to greater experience of inequality in the healthcare system. Therefore, these demographics should be looked into.

Findings from the study will then also be used to create a training package that all health practitioners will complete, aiming to educate them about treating LGBT+ patients.

It is noteworthy there were some examples of good practice for treating LGBT+ people, but these were far too sparse to be considered acceptable. We all deserve quality healthcare.

Words Jamie Dixon

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