Equality in healthcare

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.



3 thoughts on “Equality in healthcare

  1. Hi Tony. I agree with you, we often forget that it is important how we phrase our questions to others as we can come across as judgemental and insensitive, unintentionally, if we speak from a specific or personally influenced point of view. This awareness you speak of is what will change minds and lives. Great link, thanks for sharing the site.

  2. Pingback: Week 3: Reflection | Chantelle van den Berg

  3. Great points, Tony. I hadn’t thought of the implications of language as part of the patient interaction in this context. There’s so much inherent bias in the way we think about and talk to others, without our really being aware of it. I think that simply knowing how the words we choose can have an impact on someone is a first step towards paying attention to our intentional use of language, not only as a form of communication but as a form of therapy.

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