Treating all patients equally whatever race, religion, disability, gender etc. seems like the obvious and easy answer to dealing with equality in healthcare. What wasn’t so obvious to me was that to address equality we may need to think about our usual approach to working with our patients and the assumptions we may make in taking this approach.
I found the Stonewall Healthy Lives website very enlightening as it describes some the perspectives of lesbian, gay and bisexual patients regarding their healthcare needs. These raised many issues that I wasn’t aware of. For example the images used in promotional information provided in the clinic (posters/leaflets etc) can help patients feel like they are accepted or not before they even meet the health care professional. Another example is it is important to try to ask open-ended questions, such as “Have you got a partner?” rather than “Are you married?” when gathering patient information. The patient should feel comfortable bringing their partner to a consultation or treatment session, so you should encourage this with appropriate language “Would you like your partner to accompany you?”.
Developing an approach to patients that accounts for all these issues isn’t necessarily obvious or straightforward and so it seems to me that aspiring to provide equality in our care requires us to educate ourselves about the needs and issues that relate to our patients.