New guidelines advise Irish doctors how to treat gay and lesbian patients

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The Irish College of General Practitioner’s (ICGP) launched a comprehensive guide to lesbian, gay and bisexual issues for GPs this week.

The document, written by the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN) is entitled Lesbian, Gay & Bisexual Patients: The Issues for General Practice.

Odhrán Allen, Director of Mental Health Strategy at GLEN, said:

“Through the publication of this document, the ICGP have demonstrated commitment and professional leadership in ensuring that the health and well-being needs of gay and lesbian patients are met by Irish GPs.”

Dr. Margaret O’ Riordan, GP and Director of Training at the ICGP said she been working in partnership with GLEN for the past two years to address gay and lesbian issues in GP training.

“It is of great importance to us to provide lesbian, gay and bisexual people with an accessible and appropriate service,” she said.

Research reports including a recent one carried out in Galway under Minister Eamon Ó’Cuív, have found that many gay people are reluctant to reveal their sexuality to their GP even where it is relevant to their treatment.

An Equality Authority study focusing on the LGTB community found that a positive reaction from a GP to a person’s sexual orientation increased the trust that clients establish with their GP.

As a result they were more likely to provide them with information relevant to their health and return for further consultations, delivering better health outcomes.

Conversely, a negative response by a GP to a gay person’s sexuality was found to lead to delay or avoidance by the patient in seeking help and a reluctance to reveal other relevant sensitive information to the GP.

The document comes several months after the Government announced the Heads of their Civil Partnership Bill.

The bill gives same-sex couples the same financial and maintenance protection as married couples, a breakthrough for the lesbian and gay community.

It creates a legal relationship for same-sex couples, covering registration of civil partnerships, property and financial matters and dissolution of the partnership.

The new bill, announced in June 2008, will take approximately six months to pass, with the legislation likely to come into effect by the end of 2009.

The government has refused to legalise gay marriage.