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Stonewall Healthy Lives

29th June 2010

NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly is to work with the UK’s leading gay rights group to improve the health and well-being of staff and service-users.

The Trust is among the 20 NHS organisations chosen for Stonewall's Healthy Lives Programme, the first scheme of its kind to support the NHS with service-specific advice on improving the experiences of lesbian, gay and bisexual staff (LGB) and service users.

The programme is a significant step towards helping us to respect sexual difference and achieve a ranking in Stonewall's prestigious list of Top 100 Employers of LGB staff.

Kate Milton, equality and diversity manager for NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, said: "Acceptance on this programme is something we have worked hard for and we are delighted to be among the first of what will hopefully be many NHS organisations to work directly with Stonewalls.

"We are aiming to be on their top employers list within the next three years and this programme will help us to achieve that.

"Not only will they help us review the way we currently work, but the programme will enable us to make a cultural shift that will hopefully enable people to trust that when they work for or deal with the Trust they will be shown dignity and respect.

"We want to create a culture where people feel confident that they are getting the right service. There are health inequality issues around LGB people; for example, fewer lesbian women access cervical screening and there are higher suicide and smoking rates among gay men. With this programme, we will be able to look at how we reduce such inequalities.

"From a staff perspective, the fact that we have a number of people who choose not to declare their sexual orientation indicates that they do not necessarily feel that we would support them as a gay person within the workplace. That perception has got to change."

As part of the Stonewall programme, we will have a dedicated health Officer as our primary contact in the programme. We will also receive support including:

• Face-to-face meetings with programme staff
• On-hand expert advice from Stonewall on lesbian, gay and bisexual staff and service user issues
• A free audit of our inclusiveness as an employer
• Establishment of an LGB staff group
• Access to NHS-specific training on employment and service-user issues, including domestic violence and hate crime
• Support to mainstream LGB equalities in policy, practice and procedure

Stonewall sees the programme as a "small first step" in ensuring that LGB staff, service-users and patients enjoy healthy lives and that the outcomes of the project need to be sustainable.

In the longer term, Stonewall would wish to see the insights from the programme shared with partners in the health sector.