Lesbian and Bisexual Women’s Health Event
Findings presented at last week’s London Lesbian and Bisexual Women’s Health Event conclusively showed that there is still a lot of ignorance and prejudice that remains at all levels of health services- from hospitals to local health surgeries. There were also not enough services targeted towards gay women, while the services on offer were not effectively reaching them.
The event hosted by the National LGB&T Partnership at Unison on 22 June, looked at the state of information and services for lesbian and bisexual women’s health, with six different organisations and speakers sharing their specialist research and first-hand experience.
Research presented by Dr. Catherine Meads, a senior lecturer at the Centre for Primary Care and Public Health, Queen Mary University, also showed that there is an extreme lack of health research specifically on gay women, and a lack of funding and interest for this type of research from major funding sources.
Meads also stated that the research completed by many LGBT organisations failed to get Government and policy makers’ attention because it was often presented in a format more suitable for the general public than academics. She called for anyone with relevant research to get it published and peer reviewed wherever they can.
Opening speaker Barry Mussenden, Director for Equality and Partnerships at the Department of Health, emphasised the importance of having equality in the NHS, as “the purpose of the NHS is equality”.
He also stated that the Department were aware of the health issues surrounding lesbian and bisexual women, such as smoking and drinking, and that not enough was done with this awareness. He added that research showed that lesbian and bisexual women were more likely to rate their patient experience as poor, and that campaigns such as the recent anti-smoking campaign clearly targeted a heterosexual audience, ignoring gay women.
Other speakers included Nikki Hayfield, a Psychology Lecturer at West of England University, who gave a talk on the prejudices and ignorance surrounding bisexuality. The Lesbian and Gay Foundation closed the event with a presentation of a successful campaign targeted at gay women, The Screen Test, a national cervical screening awareness campaign which effectively dispelled the popular myth that gay women do not require cervical screening.
The event also included two workshops which looked at and invited discussion on what gay health clinics can do to reach gay women, and how local health surgeries can be more welcoming and considerate towards gay women.