Working with Pride at Evelina London

29 June 2021

Our supporter-funded trial of Rainbow Badges has helped to introduce NHS Trusts across the UK to an initiative that makes LGBT+ children and young people feel more comfortable in clinical spaces.

Creating a safe space for all

Growing up it’s not always easy to talk about sexuality, gender, and how you feel about it. Many young LGBT+ people do not have an adult they can turn to or confide in.

LGBT+ stands for lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender and the + includes all identities, regardless of how people define themselves.

“Despite improving social attitudes in the UK, LGBT+ people can still face significant barriers to accessing healthcare and this can have a detrimental impact on physical and mental health,” explains Dr Michael Farquhar, NHS Rainbow Badge lead and sleep consultant at Evelina London.

Asking invasive questions and making heteronormative assumptions can quickly make clinical settings feel hostile for LGBT+ people. Worse still, according to a Stonewall statistic almost a quarter of staff across the NHS have heard their colleagues make a negative remark about LGBT+ people.

When Evelina London staff learnt this, they decided it was time for some much-needed changes to improve care for their LGBT+ patients.

“NHS staff are in the perfect position to be advocates and supporters for LGBT+ people,” says Jayne King, head of security and co-chair of the LGBT+ forum at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Trust. “Increased awareness of the issues LGBT+ people face when accessing healthcare can make a significant difference to their experiences, and, in turn their physical and mental health.”

Thanks to our donors, staff trialled a new initiative to show children and young people that Evelina London is a safe space for the whole LGBT+ community.

The team at Evelina London led by Dr Michael Farquhar created special Rainbow Badges, which show the NHS logo super-imposed onto a Pride flag. The badges empower young people to feel more comfortable about their sexuality and gender identity in clinical settings.

“Wearing a NHS Rainbow Badge is a way for our staff to show that Evelina London is an open, non-judgemental and inclusive place for children, young people and their families who identify as LGBT+ and that we are here for them in every way,” says Dr Farquhar.

Rainbow Badges: improving inclusion at Evelina London and beyond

Rainbow Badges have been a runaway success since their introduction at Evelina London during LGBT+ History Month in 2019.

Originally the initiative aimed to have one quarter of staff wearing the badges. But after just one month almost a third of staff signed up to wear the badge. As they became more and more prominent, their benefits for the Evelina London family became clear.

Thanks to the Rainbow Badges, LGBT+ family members can support their children without worrying about how they will be perceived.

“Sometimes when working in PICU a baby will have two Mums and I’ve noticed that some parents haven’t always felt comfortable being open with all staff members,” says Hannah Brindle, a staff nurse at Evelina London.

“Once I saw a Mum looking at my badge and after that she knew it was ok to just be herself. She knew she was accepted, could be open and not judged by staff and the Trust as a whole.”

After the success of the donor-funded trial, the badges have been rolled out first across Guy’s and St Thomas’ Trust sites and then to NHS Trusts across the UK.

To make sure as many clinical settings feel open and inclusive for LGBT+ patients the team at Evelina London created an extremely popular toolkit to support and encourage other NHS organisations to start using Rainbow Badges.

With 73% of NHS Trusts in England in the process of launching badges for their staff, it is not surprising to see the badges popping up outside of clinical settings. You can regularly spot them being worn by leading politicians and they even made an appearance on BBC’s Holby City.

“Small gestures like this mean so much to those that really need it the most,” says Dr Ranj, a former Evelina London paediatrician turned TV personality.

“I knew it was going to be something very special, but I had no idea that this little badge which started life at Evelina London, was going to become a symbol of compassion and understanding for so many. It makes me hugely proud to be LGBT+ in the NHS, and it makes me proud to part of the Trust that helped launch it,” he added.