Philippa and Rhiannon Oakley, Clinical LGBT Inclusivity Trainers & Coaches & Mentors for the NHS
Promoting clarity, awareness and understanding of LGBT issues through online training about LGBT inclusive healthcare
You have to do more than just wear a rainbow,” says Rhiannon Oakley. “Since the pandemic, the LGBTQ+ message has become confused.” A married couple, parents of a one-year-old daughter and business partners who have recently launched clinical LGBT inclusivity and communication skills training programmes they deliver for the NHS, Rhiannon and Philippa Oakley talk candidly about their experience in the LGBT world.
“I made a comment about her rainbow badge and the cashier replied, ‘it’s just a rainbow. Nothing more.’"
Rhiannon acknowledges that lots of people in NHS Trusts and hospitals are wearing rainbows in support of the LGBT community but that the message has become unclear. Recently, while shopping at the supermarket, she got into conversation with the cashier, who was wearing a rainbow badge. “I made a comment about her rainbow badge,” she explains, “and the cashier replied, ‘it’s just a rainbow. Nothing more.’” Since the pandemic, the rainbow symbol has become muddled. Some associate it with the NHS, some with the pandemic and others with support for the LGBT community.
A qualified chiropractor and coach, Philippa Oakley was forced to rethink the couple’s multidisciplinary healthcare clinic during the pandemic after the stay-at-home order forced them to shut their doors. By focusing their attentions on their training and coaching consultancy, the couple are now able to help others gain clarity, awareness and understanding of LGBT issues and the impact of poor communication, something that has affected both Rhiannon and Philippa for most of their lives.
"We've developed and launched online training courses on LGBT inclusive healthcare"
Both women are registered members of the NHS Leadership Academy as coaches and mentors. Philippa explains: “We've developed and launched online training courses on LGBT inclusive healthcare, co-authored with an LGBT specialist massage therapist, which are suitable for clinicians and non-clinicians. They have been well received by the NHS and have been approached by a number of NHS Trusts and CCGs that are looking to roll out the training for their practitioners.
“We know LGBT people have nationally recognised health inequalities,” she continues. “But what we’ve found is that there is very little training focused on clinicians. There's a lot of training out there about what the LGBT acronym means and the sensitive use of gender identifying pronouns, in accordance with the Equalities Act. But we also have to be very aware of how somebody who is LGBT experiences the world and how that affects the way they might present to us in clinic. And that also impacts the way that we communicate with people.”
"What LGBT people want to know is why they are at a higher risk of developing chronic conditions"
The programme Philippa and Rhiannon have developed aims to support practitioners, executives and non-clinicians to build safe spaces for LGBT people. Philippa explains: “Much of the existing training focuses around what the law says you shouldn’t do; it can almost feel a bit scaremongering and not particularly meaningful. What LGBT people want to know is why they are at a higher risk of developing chronic conditions. And that’s also what we need to know as clinicians. So, we've tried to make this course meaningful so that practitioners feel confident in having these conversations with LGBT people.”
Ways to make organisations LGBT friendly hinge upon signposting that an organisation is a safe space. Actions they can implement include: prominently displaying rainbow symbols in their premises that signify they are LGBT allies; having inclusivity statements on websites, using marketing materials which show diverse people; and having non-gendered language on forms. Philippa adds: “For LGBT people who are actively looking for signs that they are safe in your hands, those are the little things that make a massive difference.”
"It feels like a tipping point is happening!"
Both women describe how the act of coming out professionally has made a big difference in their lives, allowing them to live as their authentic selves. They also acknowledge that the NHS seems to be on the cusp of a big change that will hopefully enable people to live more authentically. Rhiannon explains: “The NHS is not looking for people to fit in anymore. They're looking for unique experiences, from a diverse range of ethnicities, backgrounds, experiences, abilities and skills. There’s a sense of wanting to champion individuality,” she says. “It feels like a tipping point is happening!”
For further information about online training for LGBT inclusive healthcare, please visit the Oakley's website.
Genevieve Shaw, Editor