The role of the LGBT sector in tackling inequalities in health

National LGB&T Partnership leads project to identify how best to work across systems to reduce inequalities in health and wellbeing

National LGB&T Partnership leads project to identify how best to work across systems to reduce inequalities in health and wellbeing

Public Health England has funded the National LGB&T Partnership to lead a project for the next 6 months to encourage and support specialist and mainstream service providers and others to improve the offer for LGBT populations as a way of tackling general as well as specific inequalities in health and wellbeing. Success in reducing inequalities in health and life expectancy will not be achieved if LGBT communities are not a central part of efforts to tackle inequality overall.

Inequalities in health are worsening. There is a 19-year difference in life expectancy for those born in the richest and those in the poorest areas. The causes of ill health, and inequality, are complex. They encompass action on the social determinants of health such as poverty, housing, employment and education, as well as access to health services and information about healthy living. The additional challenges routinely faced by LGBT people mean that responses need to be specific and appropriate.

There is no one cause and as such, there is no one organisation that can provide solutions. Listening to our communities and targeting our efforts – as well as the efforts of others –  to prevent ill health are key roles for the LGBT sector.

LGBT communities have resources and assets that are valuable in securing improvements; these include friendship networks, sport and faith groups, and other community organisations, as well as proud histories of activism and mobilisation. There are also resources in mainstream organisations which have yet to be unlocked.

Collaboration is key. Bringing statutory, voluntary and community sector organisations and LGBT people together is critical to better understand the challenges, identify solutions and take concerted, coordinated action.

Outputs from the project include a series of focused round table events and a resource for services identifying key issues, policy drives and examples of good practice. Whole systems work in two pilot sites – the London Borough of Lambeth and Leeds – will provide learning for other areas to implement.

Any questions or suggestions, contact David Woodhead –

Cervical Screening Awareness Week – 12th -18th June

Kate Sanger – Head of Communications at Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust wants LGBT people with cervixes to get screened.

Cervical cancer does not discriminate. It can affect anyone with cervix. However it can be prevented. This is why the news earlier this year that lesbian and bisexual women are being told they do not need to attend smear tests is very concerning. Smear tests prevent a huge 75% of cervical cancers from developing and save an estimated 5,000 lives every year in the UK, they provide the best form of protection against cervical cancer, a disease that claims two lives every day in the UK.

Anyone living with a cervix should fully understand the steps they can take to reduce their risk of cancer and feel supported and empowered to take those steps. This means attending smear tests. Almost all cases of cervical cancer are caused by persistent high-risk human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is extremely common, so much so that 80% of people will have HPV at some point in their lives. HPV lives on the skin in and around the genital area and is passed through skin-to-skin contact. In the majority of cases the immune system simply clears the infection however in some cases it can cause abnormal cells to develop in the cervix which, if not detected through smear tests and treated, could develop in to cervical cancer.

Research tells us that across the UK one in four women do not attend their smear test when invited, attendance is now at a 19 year low and diagnoses of cervical cancer are worryingly high. We know from research that the reasons women don’t attend are wide ranging.  Some women feel embarrassed, others are afraid the test will be painful, others report preferring not to know if something is wrong, many don’t understand what the test is or don’t think it is relevant for them. There are already many barriers to attending smear tests and for lesbian and bisexual women, incorrectly being told they do not need to attend smear tests is simply adding a further barrier to a test that could potentially save their life. We know that trans people with cervixes are even more likely to avoid getting smear tests, for the reasons above and also due to both fear and distrust of the medical profession, and, for some, discomfort around their bodies.

A significant part of our work at Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust involves working with women and health care professionals to raise awareness of smear tests, overcome the barriers to the test and tackle any misconceptions and stigma that may be putting lives at risk. This is one of the reasons that we have launched a new LGBTQ section of our Forum. We want to provide a supportive environment where members of the LGBTQ community can talk openly about any concerns or issues they may have relating to cervical screening, screening results, and cervical cancer.

For more information visit – 

Independent Choices’ new LGBT+ IDVA #LBWomensHealth17

Health isn’t limited to physical health, and physical and mental health are closely linked. Poor mental and physical health can be a result of being, or feeling like you are, less able to access health and other services which might support your wellbeing, such as safe housing. Being safe and secure is a determinant of both physical and mental health.

Independent choices tell us below about their new LGBT+ IDVA.

The LGBT+ IDVA (Independent Domestic Violence Advisor) is Independent Choices new service in conjunction with The LGBT Foundation Manchester, which specifically works with LGBT+ people who are experiencing domestic abuse.

Domestic abuse can take many forms, including: coercive control, physical, financial, sexual, and emotional abuse. There can be additional factors that can make it more difficult for somebody who is LGBT+ to seek support for domestic abuse. These can include being threatened to be outed to family, friends or work colleagues. They can include using your gender identity or sexual orientation as a method of control.

Domestic abuse isn’t well recognised in the LGBT community – There hasn’t been much information or discussion in the LGBT communities about domestic abuse. Most information on domestic abuse relates to experiences of heterosexual women. This lack of understanding means that some people may not:

  • Believe it happens in LGBT relationships.
  • Recognise their experience as domestic abuse if it does happen to them.
  • Know how to respond if they see domestic abuse being experienced by their friends.

Encouraging Disclosure It can be hard for LGBT domestic abuse victims/survivors to seek help because they may not want to disclose their sexuality to police or other organisations. Because of the general homophobia and transphobia in modern societies, LGBT victims/survivors of partner violence may be concerned about giving gay and lesbian relationships a ‘bad name’ and may refuse to speak up about the abuse they’re suffering.

When people do seek help, police and other agencies may misunderstand the situation as a fight between two men or women rather than a abusive intimate relationship, and LGBT people may be discouraged from disclosing if service providers use language which reflect heterosexual assumptions. For example, if a woman has not disclosed her partner’s sex, and is asked about her boyfriend/husband; if her abuser is a woman she may feel that she cannot disclose this or that it mustn’t count.

The Independent Choices IDVA will work with people to reduce the risk of further domestic abuse. This can include safety planning, support with housing, signposting to health and wellbeing services, support with attending court and reporting to the police if appropriate. Independent Choices want  LGBT communities to know that there is a service that understands their needs and to discuss options to be safer.

Two #LBWomensHealth17 events for Friday 17th

To close out the week of events and activities that have been going on around the country to mark Lesbian and Bisexual Women’s Health Week, two organisations which work to improve health for diverse communities are holding events, they tell us about them below:


Touchstone’s tag line is Inspiring Communities, Transforming Lives.

Touchstone provide mental health and wellbeing services to over 2000 people a year, whilst also working across communities to grow their confidence and capacity to demand the services and positive experiences they are entitled to. Touchstone is considered a major provider of services to BME communities.

On the 17th, Touchstone’s Senior Management Team will host a lunch celebrating #LBWomensHealth week for all staff which will include a panel of L&B women staff and which will explore the experiences of L&B women. There will be a free Caribbean Lunch and everyone is welcome. Jude Woods, a guest speaker from the Mesmac Sage project, will talk about the health needs of older Lesbian and Bisexual Women.

Trade Sexual Health

Trade Sexual Health is a health and sexual health charity, providing free, confidential health advice, information and support for LGB&T communities of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.

Trade Sexual Health have always aimed to break down barriers to accessing health services, reduce isolation, stigma and discrimination, and encourage or enable LGB&T people from diverse backgrounds to share in the life of the whole community.

This week, to raise awareness of #LBWomensHealth, Trade would particularly like to invite Lesbian, Bisexual and other women who have sex with women to attend CLINIC xtra, their weekly sexual health clinic. As well as sexual health testing and services, visitors to CLINIC xtra can catch up on latest news, find out about Trade services, or talk to Trade worker available on site. CLINIC xtra runs from 11-2 at Trade, 2nd Floor, 27 Bowling Green Street, Leicester, LE1 6AS.

Hepatitis B in the LGBTQ community

As part of #LBWomensHealth17, the team at the LGBT Foundation want to talk to you about Hepatitis B.

Visiting the doctors is awkward. It often takes a lot of effort and emotional strength to ask for what we need. That’s only amplified when those services seem to question our very identities. As our report showed, lesbian and bisexual (LB) women still face homophobia, biphobia and transphobia when they access health services. And whilst we’ll continue to campaign for better awareness and understanding from health practitioners, we need to be able to access services now.

Hepatitis B is on the rise in the LGBTQ community, and it can be easily avoided1. Three vaccines, taken within 4 to 6 months, provides protection from what can be a pretty nasty infection. The vaccine is free for what the NHS identifies as ‘at-risk’ groups, you can see what these groups are on the NHS website:

Some of these at-risk groups may involve LB women and particularly LB trans women. The important thing is that if you think you might be at risk, you have the right to access the vaccine, for free. Most GPs should provide the vaccine if you mention it to them. However, as the report showed, GPs will often make assumptions about your identity and sex life and this could affect whether or not they think you are eligible for the vaccine. This is often the case for lesbian, bisexual and trans women, and particularly trans L or B women!

The good news if you do find that your GP is being resistant to you accessing the vaccine but you feel you are at risk, is that there are other options. It’s not always easy to change surgeries, depending on where you live, though you can request another GP from the same practice. What’s more, there are independent clinics that provide the vaccination. If for example you are struggling with transphobia around sexual health services, CliniQ in Soho, London, is a trans-friendly clinic where staff are incredibly well-trained to understand trans peoples’ needs. Trans-specific clinics also exist in Brighton and Birmingham.

If you want any help finding supportive GPs, or if you want help challenging your GP if they’re refusing you the vaccine, get in touch, and we’ll do our best to help.

Try calling the LGBT Foundation helpline on 0161 330 3030 or check out our website at



Birmingham LGBT Host a Women’s Health and Wellbeing Fair for #LBWomensHealth17

During National Lesbian and Bisexual Women’s Health week, Birmingham LGBT will be hosting a Health and Wellbeing Fair for LGBT women to highlight all the different services available at Birmingham LGBT for women. They’ll also be heading out to the pub, and offering sexual health testing while they’re there!

Blogs & a night out with a difference

Andréa Willinger and other women from the BLGBT team will be writing short blogs focusing on health and wellbeing to be put up throughout #LBWomensHealthWeek17 on their website and will be ending the week at The Fox, an LGBT women’s pub, holding an information stall and asking women to have selfies for twitter taken with our poster – they have also secured a testing van so can offer women STI screening and HIV testing.

The Health and Wellbeing Fair

On Tuesday 14th, Andréa will be at the Cakes and Ladders Cafe next door to Birmingham LGBT talking to women about her role as a sexual health outreach worker for lesbian and bisexual women and how she can support them to access the existing sexual health services on offer from Birmingham LGBT. She will also be talking about the opening of the West Midlands first dedicated sexual health monthly clinic just for Lesbian, WSW and Bisexual women.

This exciting initiative will see a dedicated space for women who identify as lesbian, WSW or bisexual to access all aspects of sexual health support, treatment, advice and referral. Women will be offered STI screening as well as HPV screening, free safer sex supplies and cervical cytology. The clinic will have an Independent Sexual Violence Advocate (ISVA) to offer practical and emotional support and direct referral into appropriate counselling.

Andréa says: I am proud to say that women have helped to shape what will be offered at the clinic through consultation and feedback – I will also be consulting with women attending the health fair for their opinions, thoughts and feedback on sexual health services for them.

At the fair there will also be:

  • Staff from BLGBT’s wellbeing support service who can help women to improve their wellbeing and reduce isolation.
  • Representatives from Activate – a Sport England-funded project, designed to encourage LGBT people in the area to try new sports, and challenge homophobia in sport.
  • The Ageing Better LGBT Hub, which can provide practical support, access to finance and promotion of LGBT groups and activities to 50+ LGBT people.
  • BLGBT’s Peer Mentor & Volunteer Coordinator who can explain how to get involved with peer to peer mentoring either as a mentee of mentor, or volunteering opportunities throughout Birmingham LGBT.

The whole event is aimed at bringing together women from the community to let them know about all that is on offer at Birmingham LGBT for LGBT women to get involved in to help improve their health and wellbeing.

LGBT people & Cancer in Manchester and Staffordshire #LBWomensHealth17

Cancer doesn’t discriminate. Find out what our friends in Manchester and Staffordshire are doing to mark #LBWomensHealthWeek17 & work to make cancer support, treatment and research more inclusive.


The LGBT Cancer Support Alliance (based in Manchester) meets every few months and is made up of researchers, health professionals and people affected by cancer who all come together with a shared aim to reduce inequalities for LGBT people affected by cancer. Part of their work so far has been to identify and unpick the needs of different groups under the ‘LGBT umbrella’, and the first Lesbian and Bisexual Women’s Health Week comes around just as they are really starting to bring to light the issues which specifically affect lesbian and bisexual women.

Why are these issues only just being uncovered? We know that many cancer services do not ask about or record the sexuality of cancer patients under their care, and this lack of monitoring means that the experiences of lesbian and bisexual women remain invisible*. As a patient this may also have an effect on the ease of conversations and appropriateness of given information around important aspects of recovery, for example a chat with your doctor around your sex life after cancer treatment.

In November last year the Alliance held their first event solely aimed at lesbian and bisexual women, an informal gathering of 10 women from the community to talk about some of the issues and barriers they have faced when accessing cancer services. The Alliance have also looked at underlying public health issues which continue to create inequalities for everyone under the LGBT umbrella, such as their newly published Proud 2B Smokefree report which presents new research on smoking cessation and the LGBT community (the latest ONS data shows that 31% of lesbian women smoke, a much higher rate than heterosexual women at 17%).

To mark the week, the LGBT Cancer Support Alliance will be sharing a new series of videos funded by Macmillan Cancer Support and produced by Alliance member and researcher from the University of Manchester, Maurice Nagington. The study gives us a frank and fresh insight into the lives of UK LGBT cancer patients through video interviews. Whether it’s Laeticia on cancer and life plans or couple Carolyn and Dollar on breast surgery, we hope you will find something of interest in these clips.

The complete set of videos can be accessed here. Follow updates all week via Twitter @LGBTCancerSA or on Facebook.


The LGBT and Cancer Project is a partnership between Macmillan Cancer Support and Disability Solutions West Midlands.

The Project aim to highlight and address inequalities for LGBT people affected by cancer. During LB Women’s Health week, they are joining forces with Staffordshire Breast Screening Services. They will be at a different venue across Staffordshire each day with information relevant to lesbian and bi women’s health and wellbeing. They will raise awareness of self-checking, smear tests, smoking cessation services, beauty tips after chemo and much more. They have also had prizes kindly donated by sponsors to offer in a raffle.

Go to @StaffsLGBT to follow their progress across Lesbian and Bisexual Women’s Health Week 2017.

*In April 2017 an information standard for monitoring sexuality will be introduced across the health and social care system in England. This standard will enable organisations to monitor sexual orientation in a way that is consistent with all other parts of the healthcare system. Read more here.