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Rainbow lanyard scheme promotes an environment of openness

In February last year, CNWL became the first Trust to launch rainbow-coloured NHS lanyards for staff to reinforce the Trust’s values and promote an environment of openness in all the Trust's services

One year on, almost 1,000 staff now wear the lanyards, including members of CNWL’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Network (Pride@CNWL), student nurses, occupational therapists on placement and almost 500 straight allies.

Alison Devlin, CNStaff wearing rainbow lanyardsWL’s Equalities and Diversity Manager, said: “The initiative has been a phenomenal success. Once a few people started wearing the lanyards then they quickly spread across our sites and services.

“The lanyards are completely optional - Staff can choose to wear the rainbow version instead of the standard NHS blue ones to highlight their support for LGBT colleagues, patients and the public and to get people talking about LGBT topics in a more confident and open way.”

Mrs Devlin first came up with the initiative after a Patient Experience Survey, carried out by The Advocacy Project (an independent advocacy organisation) on nine of the Trust’s mental health wards found that some patients preferred not to be open about their sexuality for fear of judgement from staff and other patients.

Feedback in the report included:

“I didn’t feel I could talk to staff, because I don’t feel they understand LGBT issues, and I was worried they would judge me negatively.”

“I would not have felt comfortable disclosing openly. They just didn’t seem like the sort of people who would be able to, if not understand, at least tolerate my situation.”

“This is not the sort of place where I feel comfortable talking about my sexuality and nobody asked either.”

Mrs Devlin continues: “This report really highlighted the importance of creating a more open environment and a better experience for LGBT patients. As a result of the findings we rolled out LGBT awareness training sessions for inpatient staff which, together with the lanyard scheme, has helped to encourage openness on the wards and transform the patient experience. They give a powerful message to people at a time when they might be feeling at their most vulnerable.”

Lanyards are distributed with an information booklet that explains the scheme and includes signposting information to a variety of local, London-wide and national LGBT organisations. Staff are also automatically signed up to receive Straight Allies bulletins and educational links to further educate them about LGBT equality issues.

The Advocacy Project returned to one of the inpatient sites in December 2015 to conduct the survey again and review the patient experience

Feedback has been extremely positive:

“I think the rainbow lanyards are BRILLIANT. They make me feel instantly safe. It makes such a difference.”

“It’s comforting. I wish more staff would wear them. I appreciate the ones who do… I can worry about being unwell and getting better, without the stress of being scared about homophobic staff.”

“I think clear messages make a big difference, make LGBT people feel safe, and it’s one less thing to worry about. Because LGBT people do worry about homophobia and transphobia when they come to hospital.”

“I just want to say again that the rainbow badges are brilliant and the ward should have posters up or leaflets telling patients what they mean.”

Claire Murdoch, CNWL Chief Executive, said: "This was a really good initiative that raised issues in an unusual but everyday way and quite colourfully. We’re a diverse Trust and these small reminders add to a positive atmosphere.”

The lanyards were rolled out in February 2015 during LGBT History Month and are promoted to staff continuously throughout the year.