Care services must adapt to the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people to ensure they are treated with dignity and respect at the end of life, according to guidance issued today.
Experience of negative reactions to sexuality or gender identity may prevent LGBT people from seeking support or having discussions about their end-of-life wishes and needs, says the guidance issued by the National End of Life Care Programme.
The guidance on improving end-of-life care for the group follows a survey earlier this year that found many LGBT people felt end-of-life care services were not open to them and feared they would face discrimination from care providers.
Based on interviews with terminally-ill LGBT people and those that care for them, today’s guidance calls on providers to avoid the assumption that service users are heterosexual or that a next of kin needs to be related by marriage or blood.
It warns that care staff may not recognise the significance of gay and lesbian relationships and the grief a bereaved partner feels.
Care providers need to ensure they are aware of the enhanced rights of transgender people, under the Gender Recognition Act (2004), not to have information on their past disclosed, and to be aware of issues surrounding ‘coming out’ such as the possibility of service users being isolated from their families.
Providers should have clear confidentiality policies that make specific reference to LGBT people and promote the use of inclusive language that does not place pressure on patients to reveal their sexual orientation or gender identity, the guidance says.
Report author Bridget Moss, who is also education director at St Helena Hospice, Colchester, added: “We need to provide a care environment that is comfortable and safe for LGBT people, and their families and carers, to openly talk about their end-of-life care needs and preferences.”