LGBTQ+ activists and healthcare experts have widely condemned the “barbaric” coverage of the NHS Rainbow Badge Scheme by The Sun and some other right-wing news outlets.
Some have attempted to compare the horrifying murders by nurse Lucy Letby to the scheme.
The badge programme, launched by the human rights not-for-profit group LGBT Foundation, aims to promote equity for queer people in healthcare through assessments by associated LGBTQ+ charities, including Stonewall, GLADD and the LGBT Consortium. It is visible through pins which can be worn by staff, if they choose.
Several media outlets, including The Sun, TalkTV and the Daily Mail, responded to the news that a new wave of trusts had joined the scheme by accusing NHS England branches of going “woke” and “erasing women.”
LGBTQ+ healthcare expert and former NHS doctor, Dr Jo Hartland, specifically condemned a comment piece in The Sun, which claimed that the scheme was the result of “politically correct groupthink” that led to the killings by nurse Letby.
“LGBTQ+/queer visibility saves lives. Associating that with child murder is a barbaric extension of the grooming narrative peddled by fascists,” Hartland wrote on social media.
Letby, a nurse at the Countess of Chester Hospital was found guilty of murdering seven babies and attempting to murder six others for reasons still unknown to prosecutors.
In the comment piece, The Sun said that it believed Letby’s rights an an individual “trumped those of the parents asking why their babies had died – or the doctors who tried to raise the alarm”.
It then compared this to the NHS Rainbow Badge Scheme, which it said was “hell-bent on wiping out the rights of all women”.
The concept of LGBTQ+ inclusion erasing the rights of women stems from a right-wing conspiracy theory that not only paints trans people as dangerous towards cisgender women, but claims that inclusive language also erases women.
Others described the comparison as “absolutely gross,” while describing the NHS Rainbow Badge as “a gift” for medical practitioners.
“As a medical student, knowing this existed… helped me and other minoritised doctors to survive, to make spaces safer, when we could,” one social media user wrote.
In a statement to PinkNews, an NHS spokesperson said: “The NHS is one of the most efficient health systems in the world, and while it is obviously important the NHS supports those [who] face barriers to accessing care, all trusts must also ensure they are spending every pound of taxpayers’ money wisely.”
LGBTQ+ people still experience ‘huge inequalities’ in healthcare
Healthcare expert and former This Morning co-presenter, Dr Ranj Singh told PinkNews that he believed the claim to be false, while adding that prioritising the safety of patients and LGBTQ+ equity in the health system were not “mutually exclusive.”
Dr Ranj said: “They are both extremely important and should be fully invested in. Ensuring safe and effective care for everyone has always been a priority for us.
“Improving access to healthcare services for everyone is an essential core value of the NHS. It is absolutely what we should be striving to do for all patients.”
He has been a long-time supporter of the NHS Rainbow Badge scheme, as well as LGBTQ+ healthcare rights, saying it is simply a way “to help improve the experience of LGBTQ+ patients.”
He went on to say: “We know that LGBTQ+ people experience significant health inequalities, either through their health needs not being adequately met, or some may even face discrimination based on who they are.
“So, it was a way to improve staff awareness, to show patients that they were in a place where they and their needs were recognised, and that staff treating them were safe people to talk to.
“For this, it has been hugely successful and a wonderful way of making healthcare inclusive and accessible for everyone.”
The assessment of each NHS trust involves a policy review, a staff survey, a patient survey, a services survey and a workforce assessment.
Each not-for-profit organisation looks at issues including workforce inclusion, leadership, LGBTQ+ engagement and inclusive facilities.
Efforts to improve LGBTQ+ equity in healthcare, such as the rainbow badge scheme, help to “ensure that all our services are as inclusive and as clinically excellent as they can be,” Dr Ranj added.
“There are some people who are actively choosing to twist this into a different narrative, to claim that groups are being marginalised or excluded – that is absolutely not the case.
“We listen to patients and we try to do the best for all of them, no matter who they are.”
PinkNews has approached The Sun for comment.