Barnsley Hospital is one of the first health trusts in the country to sign up to The Rainbow Badge scheme. This is a way for NHS staff to show they are aware of issues that lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT+) people face when accessing healthcare.

The scheme started at Evelina London Children’s Hospital and community services, part of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. Its simple aim is to make a positive difference by promoting a message of inclusion and it is hoped that other NHS organisations across the country will adopt the idea.

The rainbow badge is a visual symbol identifying its wearer as someone an LGBT+ person can feel comfortable talking to about issues relating to sexual orientation or gender identity. It shows the wearer is there to listen without judgement and signpost to further support if needed.The scheme emphasises that wearing a badge is a responsibility. Basic education and access to resources are provided for staff who want to sign up. Information is also given outlining the challenges LGBT+ people can face in relation to accessing healthcare and the degree of negative attitudes still found towards LGBT+ people.

The 2018 Stonewall study ‘LGBT in Britain – Health Report’ found that one in seven LGBT people (14%) avoid seeking healthcare for fear of discrimination from staff. Mental health issues such as depression and anxiety are much higher in people who identify as LGBT+. Half of LGBT people nationally (52%) experienced depression in the last year, and almost one in four (23%) witnessed discriminatory or negative remarks against LGBT+ people by healthcare staff.

Colin Brotherston-Barnett, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Lead for Barnsley Hospital, said: “I’m really excited and proud that we’re one of the first trusts in the country to sign up to the @EvelinaLondon Rainbow NHS Badge Project.  I’m sure many of our staff will wear them with pride. This sends out a powerful message to the LGBT+ patients, carers and relatives how inclusive we are and that we are there to support and signpost to anyone who might be struggling to come to terms with who they are.

“Barnsley Hospital places a huge value on equality for both staff and patients. Increased awareness of the issues surrounding LGBT+ people when accessing healthcare on the part of NHS staff can make significant differences to LGBT+ people’s experience, and, in turn on their physical and mental health.”

Earlier this month – which is also LGBT History Month – Barnsley Hospital held a Diversity and Inclusion Conference. The event proved to be a great success and introduced the hospital’s Diversity Champions, while Consultant Radiologist and Diversity Champion Dr Lisa Shannon spoke about the NHS Rainbow Badge scheme.

She said: “Having visible symbols of inclusion is extremely important but what really matters is the attitude of staff who are displaying those symbols.That’s what makes the Rainbow NHS Badges project so special, having the emphasis on the commitment that comes with wearing the badge of being open, non-judgmental, and inclusive of anyone who identifies as LGBT+.  It’s fantastic that Barnsley is one of the first Trusts in the roll-out.  Let’s show the rest of the country how it’s done!”

Rachel Carter from AccessAble also talked through the launch of the Trust’s new website with AccessAble, helping to make the Trust more accessible for people with disabilities.