Pride Month – ”why do we still need it?”

A question I’ve been asked countless times. Followed by “there should be a straight pride”. Honey, every day is straight pride.

There are still countries in the world where it is punishable by death to be gay, and up until 1967, it was illegal for men to be homosexual in England and Wales. Pride month, and the various nationwide Pride parades help us to remember that and campaign for total equality whilst also celebrating diversity.

LGBTQIA+. That’s a lot of letters, and represents diversity. To those who do not know, this stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, asexual, and the ‘+‘ represents all of those who do not identify as straight, nor as any of the preceding letters. A proportion of these people may identify as non-binary, where their gender does not fit into the the binary male or female genders. These terms are not exclusive, so one person can identify as more than one of these terms. If any of these terms or identities is new to you, then that proves there is a need for Pride month.

There has been a lot of progress in the UK with regards to legal entitlements for LGBTQIA+ people in the UK, including bringing in the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013 which permitted same-sex couples to marry. The UK government also introduced ‘Turing’s Law’ in the Policing and Crime Act 2017, which posthumously pardons men who were convicted of homosexuality prior to 1967.
This is all amazing, and certainly something to be proud of, but it is essentially legal entitlements and little else. Despite these advances, there is plenty of research and evidence to suggest that this group of people still face regular discrimination, bullying and harassment in education, the workplace, in the streets and in health and social care to name a few. There are higher rates of addiction and mental illness, lower rates of life satisfaction, and shorter healthy life expectancy. The statistics are even worse for BAME individuals in the LGBTQIA+ community.

It’s not all doom and gloom. Things ARE getting better for us, but we are far from achieving total equality yet.
I went to school during the ‘Section 28 years’. This was a clause in the Local Government Act 1988, passed under Mrs Thatcher’s Conservative government in May 1988. It stipulated that a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”. Just reading those words makes me feel sick to my stomach. Mrs Thatcher banned teachers from telling students that gay people exist, that it’s okay to be gay, and that it is not something to be ashamed of.
This has resulted in millions of us growing up, and feeling like we were doing something wrong, like we didn’t exist, and that it was not okay to be ourselves.

There is an amazing new NHS initiative called the Rainbow Badge Project, developed by consultant paediatrician Dr Mike Farquhar. Piloted at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital, the project is now available to all staff working in NHS trusts, clinical commissioning groups and GP surgeries in England. They are to symbolise that the wearer is a safe person for patients to talk to about gender and sexuality. As a result, the multi-coloured pins are not just freely distributed. Potential wearers are expected to read through several articles and resources, including Stonewall’s coming-out guidance, and to sign up to key principles. So be sure to look out for these next time you visit a healthcare professional.

A recent example of why Pride month and further diversity education is required can be seen at the protests outside of Anderton Park Primary school in Birmingham. Groups of parents were rallying against the school’s new implementation of LGBT awareness teaching. These protests have been so extreme and disruptive that the High Court has had to file an injunction to prevent further protests and demonstrations. The awareness education was simply for children to acknowledge that different types of families exist, and that these are all normal and okay. It is simply a reflection of the diversity of the UK, and something that I wish I had at school.

Pride month and LGBT education is not there to turn people gay. By that logic I would be as straight as a ruler, as I was only exposed to heteronomitivity whilst growing up, and was never taught about diversity in relationships at school. It is simply there to promote inclusivity, to demonstrate that different
 types of relationships exist, and that it’s okay to be yourself. In turn, this will hopfully address the shocking health and social inequalities faced by the LGBT communities, namely the high rates of mental illness and addiction

So that is why Pride month is still needed, and that is why I am a firm believer and supporter of its cause.

I’m going to put together a piece about LGBT and health, from the perspectives of both the clinician and as the patient, so be sure to subscribe and to not miss it!

Social Prescribing and Parkrun

Social Prescribing… what is it?

With the first Social Prescribing Day last week (14th March 2019), it has certainly pushed social prescribing even further into the spotlight within primary and community care. We have all heard of the term; I had heard about it around two years ago, but what exactly is it? What does it involve, and how does it benefit our patients? And what has ParkRun got to do with it all?

Social prescribing is the new kid on the block in the NHS, and is about getting patients to empower themselves, and look after their own health, wellbeing and social welfare. It is about utilising the myriad of community services available, but more specifically, involves clear signposting to navigate the labyrinth of the available services. Sure, it is an initiative designed to help patients, but ultimately it is incredibly useful for GPs, and here is why.

One particular difficulty I have had, with regards to community services, is the vast difference in them between areas, the ever changing names (take IAPT providers for example), and the differences in availability. This can be difficult enough for any primary care provider to manage if they have been rooted in the local community for some time. However with the declining popularity of staying put in partnership roles, and the increasing attraction of locum and salaried positions, more and more GPs are moving around and working in different parts of the country. With each move will come a steep learning curve of knowing which services are available, what the most recent contact details are (because let’s face it, apart from changing names frequently, many of these community services also update their contact details, rendering the majority of our waiting room posters and leaflets out of date). This is just one facet of how social prescribers can really help out the GP.

The role of the social prescriber is to link NHS services, local community services and the voluntary sector together, and to signpost patients towards appropriate support. These are people we can refer our patients to, particularly the complex and those with chronic and ongoing needs, and they can be signposted to relevant services. And as this is their predominant role, they will know their stuff, have up to date contact details, and we won’t have to rely on out of date posters or blind Google searches.

Social prescribing is not just for the social prescribers, however. The aim of last week’s Social Prescribing Day was to both highlight these new members of the primary care team, but to also highlight the need for practitioners to review their knowledge of their own local services themselves. Of course, we cannot be expected to know every single service, but are expected to know about the core ones, and be actively promoting these to our patients where appropriate.


And this is where Parkrun comes in. Last year, Parkrun joined forces with the RCGP to produce ‘Parkrun Practices’. These are GP practices which are linked to their local Parkrun event, and actively promote the benefits to both staff and patients. What better way to incorporate social prescribing, free exercise, and community building?!

I have taken it upon myself to become the Parkrun representative within my practice, and have been attending the practice’s local Parkrun event (unfortunately not my local one) for the past few weeks now. With the help of the RCGP Parkrun toolkit (link) I have produced posters, flyers and slides for the waiting room TV screen to actively push the benefits of Parkrun on patients and staff. Although I am just getting this off of the ground, there has been a fairly positive response from both staff and patients so far, so watch this space.

On my first visit to the Basildon Parkrun event, it was a windy and wet Saturday morning, and yet there was a great turnout of over 200 participants, and I believe over 25 volunteers. This was my first outdoors run in several months, so was a challenge, but certainly an enjoyable one. I think I completed the full 5k within 28 minutes, which although not my best time, was still a great achievement. Afterwards, I met with some of the course organisers to introduce myself, and got to hear about some of the success stories of some of the participants and volunteers which were very inspiring. One lady had overcome her longstanding social anxiety by volunteering every week, and there were countless runners who had lost the pounds and slimmed down simply by running 5k every week and adopting a healthier lifestyle.

The mental health benefits of Parkrun hadn’t dawned on me until I had spoken to the organisers. With the ever rising prevalence of mental health problems within our community, it isn’t just the overweight patients who we should be directing to Parkrun. Those having difficulty with stress, low mood, anxiety, bereavement, those stopping smoking, those with high blood pressure, diabetes, osteoporosis, COPD, fibromyalgia… the list is endless. Or simply those without illness, but who fall into the ever-growing group of those living with chronic loneliness. Parkrun provides a sense of community and a sense of purpose, so can help tackle loneliness.

We all need to utilise our social prescribers, so ensure you find out how to contact your local service, and how to direct your patients there. As with any NHS service, if you don’t use it, you lose it. And I strongly feel social prescribers will be needed more and more, year on year with our ever growing elderly population and those living with chronic disease. But also, take the social prescribing challenge. Apart from your core services you frequently signpost to (in my case, IAPT, alcohol liaison services and smoking cessation), pick two or three other local services or charities, and actively promote these to your patient population. Your patients will thank you for it.

Dr Jay

Catch my latest tweets about social prescribing and Parkrun below:

Twitter: @drjaydriscoll


Welcome to my new blog, very thoughtfully and creatively entitled Dr Jay blogs! As a medical practitioner I come across a vast array of interesting cases and topics from the bread and butter stuff to the downright weird and wonderful, and the unifying feature in each of them is that there is a person at the centre of it all. And that is the very reason why I do what I do, and why I love what I do.

I’m a GP trainee, soon to be a fully fledged General Practitioner with a real passion for medical education, and an emerging interest in medical writing, hence the new blog. Outside of medicine I enjoy cooking (and eating), karate, running and meditation.

My aim for the blog is to have my space to share news, interesting cases or articles, to share educational tools and to reflect on my own practice as a doctor. There are new things that I learn every day on the job, and so this can also be a place to share my new discoveries too.

Anyway, I hope you will come back very soon for my first proper post, and for many more to come in the near future!