HSE to draw up hospital guidelines on gay, lesbian relationships


THE HEALTH Service Executive (HSE) is to draw up guidelines for hospitals on recognising gay and lesbian relationships and the partners of patients during their treatment, according to the author of a report on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) health.

Caoimhe Gleeson, chairwoman of the HSE’s LGBT health sub-committee, said the guidelines were “definitely the next thing we are working on”.

Speaking at the publication of the report yesterday she said: “There are legal issues around recognising same-sex relationships but hospitals and healthcare professionals have discretion when it comes to recognising same-sex partners during treatment. If there are guidelines in place awareness of the issue is increased.”

She said it was important that if a patient identified another person as their partner it was respected and that the partner be kept informed of treatment and progress.

“If the patient is compos mentis of course. It’s when they aren’t that it can get nasty with family [and so on],” she said.

The report, LGBT Health: Towards Meeting the Needs of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People, finds particular health issues experienced by the LGBT population.

Laverne McGuinness, national director of primary, continuing and community care with the HSE, said €100,000 had been committed to implementing its recommendations.

While the HSE has previously targeted studies on the needs of such minority groups as Travellers and immigrants, this is its first on the health and care needs of the LGBT community.

In general terms the LGBT population is found to have higher levels of smoking, alcohol consumption, recreational drug use and a higher incidence of obesity and eating disorders than among the general population.

The population was also found to have a high incidence of depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide.

LGBT young people experience isolation, fear, stigma, bullying and family rejection contributing to depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide.

The report finds lesbian and bisexual women have a higher incidence of such problems as polycystic ovarian syndrome, ovarian cancer and possibly breast cancer than the general adult female population.

“They also make low use of gynaecological services and have a low awareness of STIs spread by woman-to-woman sex,” said Ms Gleeson.

Gay and bisexual men suffer homophobic abuse and stress while older LGBTs experience invisibility, isolation and a lack of recognition of partners as well as difficulties expressing bereavement.

Odhrán Allen, director of mental health strategy at the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (Glen) welcomed the report, describing it as a “milestone” .

“For the first time in Ireland we have a coherent and comprehensive report on the particular health needs of LGBT people as well as clear recommendations on how the HSE can address these needs.”

Among the recommendations are that a national HSE strategy be developed for the LGBT population and that the LGBT population be named as a specific group in all HSE policy.