Opening up hospice care to the LGBTQI community

This blog by Imelda Glackin was originally published by DIVA

We are a hospice in the heart of Brighton and Hove on the south coast of England.

When it comes to embracing and celebrating the LGBTQI community, our city is perhaps the most flamboyantly open in the UK!

We’re proud of the excellent standard of care we offer to the city’s community.

Why we need LGBTQI-friendly healthcare

Though there have been many positive changes nationally in relation to LGBTQI rights and access to services over the past decade, as a member of this community myself, I know there is so much more to be done.

Certainly people are more accepting of the LGBTQI community and same-sex partnerships. For me, however, there is still an “awkwardness” that exists – particularly in healthcare.

I don’t think this is necessarily about prejudice and bias; people are often well-meaning but it’s an evolution of thinking. Embedded beliefs are still rife, even in a liberal community like Brighton.

Fear of judgement and of feeling self-conscious can still be a barrier to LGBTQI people accessing health services and hospice care. At Martlets, we have had many LGBTQI patients use our services and we want the community to know that we are here for them and their families.

We’ve had a same-sex wedding at the hospice and we are actively involved in the city’s Pride celebrations every year. In line with the government’s gender identity and inclusion policy, training in LGBTQI inclusivity is mandatory for all staff.

We also support our LGBTQI workforce with inclusive policies, terms and conditions.

Giving staff the skills

Palliative care is holistic care.

It’s about understanding who each person is and what gives each person’s life a sense of meaning. Sexuality and gender are part of what brings meaning and richness to people’s lives and informs their close relationships.

It’s important that our staff have the skills to really listen. Whether they are on the ward, working in day services, or out in the community visiting people at home.

They need to understand what is important to each patient and who the significant people in their lives are. It’s a misconception that equality is about everyone being treated the same.

Really it is about approaching people from the perspective of, “I won’t make an assumption about you. Tell me your story. I am listening.”

Everyone in our local community needs to feel comfortable accessing our hospice care.

That’s why Open Up Hospice Care, a campaign by national hospice and palliative care charity Hospice UK, is such a great initiative. 

It’s time to bust some myths!

Hospice care is available to everyone with a terminal illness and also extends support to patients’ families. This care is offered regardless of sexual orientation, ethnicity, disability or religion.

Also as Hospice UK’s campaign highlights hospice care is not just available in hospice in-patient units but also in people’s homes.

And hospice care isn’t just end-of-life care. It’s not always about last days and weeks. Most people receive care from Martlets in their own homes.

Outpatients also visit our hospice for pain relief, physiotherapy, counselling, welfare advice and social activities. Others choose to spend their final days here or to join us as inpatients for respite care or symptom management.

Our expert team helps people do the things they love with the time they have left. We want everyone affected by terminal illness to know they can still feel hope, purpose and possibility – whether LGBTQI or otherwise.

To find out how you can support the Open Up Hospice Care campaign click here

Hospice UK recently launched a new resource highlighting how health and care service providers can successfully deliver high quality, personalised care to LGBTQI people. Care Committed To Me is available here.