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A journey of insight on the road to equality

Author: Lynn Holden
01 December 2016

Lynn Holden, Clinical Services Development Facilitator at East Lancashire Hospice, shares how working with a local LGBT charity and providing training for hospice staff has helped significantly increased their awareness and understanding, which looks set to have a positive impact on care provided to people from this community.

Over the last few years there has been a growing body of evidence that specific groups in society have experienced poor quality end of life care that doesn’t always meet their needs.

The CQC has pointed out their intention to focus reviews on particular priority groups, one being people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGB&T).

East Lancashire Hospice’s five-year strategy 2013/18 also identified the need for us as an organisation to be proactive in our approach to engaging with and including difficult-to-reach-groups.

In February 2015, as part of my role, I initiated a partnership with the charity Lancashire LGB&T. The aim was to establish the hospice as a proactively welcoming organisation to LGB&T individuals using our services, employed by us, volunteering and visiting.

To achieve this, we developed and delivered LGB&T Awareness Training. The primary learning outcomes were to increase understanding of the impact of stereotyping at an individual and societal level, the influence this has on perception and behaviour, and develop a greater sensitivity to the specific needs of LGB&T individuals, across the organisation.

In September, we delivered eight three hour sessions of training in the hospice; attended by 84 people, over a period of three weeks. Our approach was to take attendees on a journey of insight to enable understanding of what it can feel like to be judged, to be considered different and to reach a point where you expect those things to happen, because you are not accepted for who you are.

The sessions were a safe place where people often shared, attendees commented on the thought provoking nature of the activities. We, explored putting aside assumptions and heterosexual norms, banishing the one size fits all ‘friend’ word. We recognised the possibility of two people being afraid to reach out and comfort one another for fear of discrimination and judgement and considered how we could all proactively act to ensure this was not the case.

At the beginning and end of each session attendees marked themselves out of ten on their perceived level of LGB&T awareness; their self-marking indicated a significant increase in awareness. A graph has been produced showing the difference in awareness levels.

In addition, 73.5% reported that the learning had ‘very much’ enhanced their knowledge. Amazingly 95.2% responded that the learning would enhance the quality of the service they provided!

Before the sessions people felt they didn’t need this type of training as they already ‘treated everyone the same’. Why when everyone is not the same? This statement is defensive, a fall-back position commonly used by individuals and organisations when they feel there’s a suggestion of discrimination.

Hospices are well placed to champion difference and celebrate their ability to provide individualised care. Both go a long way to breaking down barriers and promoting trust for difficult-to-reach groups. At the end of the sessions’ journey we concluded that ‘we should care for people differently, based on an understanding of them as an individual, to ensure equity in outcome’. This is not discrimination; it is much closer to equality.                                                                                                                       

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