Homophobic abuse spurs NHS Trust’s discrimination review

PinkNews logo on pink background with rainbow corners.

PinkNews.co.uk Exclusive

Staff at a sexual health clinic are to undergo training in dealing with discrimination after a gay patient and his partner complained about homophobic abuse.

Robert Brown attended the Caldecot Centre at King’s College Hospital, an NHS Trust, earlier this year with his boyfriend and claims he was verbally abused by another visitor who repeatedly shouted homophobic taunts throughout a two hour wait where staff did nothing to help.

Mr Brown told PinkNews.co.uk: “I accompanied my partner to the clinic and we were queuing outside. A heavy-set afro-Caribbean male walked to the front of the newly formed queue and stood looking inside the glass doors.

“When the doors opened, he walked straight to the front of the queue to the desk. I mentioned to him, and the staff at the desk, that there was a queue and that he should join it. We had been waiting there for nearly half an hour and I was not going to allow him to just walk to the front of the queue. Eventually the staff said the same to him and informed him he had to join the queue.

“He was wearing sunglasses, however I could still tell that he was trying to intimidate me.

Mr Brown told PinkNews.co.uk that the man shouted the words “Faggot,” “Batty Boi” and “Sodom and Gomorrah” at him and his partner while they were sitting in the waiting room.

“Although they didn’t say anything, two other clients in the waiting room were laughing at this and encouraging and supporting him.

“I went to the reception desk and asked the staff if there was a discrimination policy within the centre. I made sure this was loud enough for the whole waiting room, especially this gentleman, to hear so that they knew exactly what I was talking about.

“If I had made racist comments I would have immediately been thrown out and not been treated.

One of the staff members said that I should sit elsewhere, I explained that it should not be me that has to sit elsewhere. I was not being discriminatory – he was,” Mr Brown added.

A staff member later spoke to the gentleman who returned to his seat reportedly whispering, “I’m not apologising to that.”

On leaving the centre, Mr Brown said: “I heard the words ‘Batty Boi’ directed towards me. As I had just turned the corner I was unaware of who it was, however it was definitely a different, younger voice – so it must have been one of the other two clients.

“I spoke with a member of staff again about how dreadful this situation and treatment was and how I feel KCH have failed in its duty to protect clients from discrimination and abuse. This client should have been thrown out, without treatment, at the first sign of any form of discrimination.”

He claims there have been other cases of homophobic abuse at the centre

In a letter to Mr Brown, Malcolm Lowe Lauri, chief executive of King’s College Hospital, said the perpetrator could not be identified by staff, but apologised for any distress and said anti discrimination posters would be displayed and training enforced.

A KCH spokesperson told PinkNews.co.uk: “King’s College Hospital was made aware of an incident in the Caldecot Centre, the clinic for sexual health, earlier in 2006, where discriminatory remarks were made to a client, Mr Brown in the public waiting area, by another client.

“KCH would like to apologise to Mr Brown for any distress that this incident caused. The abuse of any person attending hospital is entirely unacceptable and is taken extremely seriously. As a result of this incident a formal investigation was carried out and recommendations made and acted upon.

“Recommendations include additional training for reception staff, in particular handling abusive or discriminatory behaviour. This training has now been implemented, not only for reception staff, but all staff working at the Centre.

“King’s is also examining ways of displaying the Trust’s position on discrimination more prominently in the public waiting area. Recently, plasma screens were donated to the Caldecot Centre, to provide information about sexual health, these can be used to convey positive messages of tolerance and cultural diversity.

“It is fundamentally important to King’s that every person who visits the hospital feels that they are in a welcoming and safe environment.

“The Caldecot clinic typically sees in excess of 100 clients per day and staff make every effort to address each client’s needs. We are confident that the additional training that staff receive will support and protect future patients.”