Celebrating Pride in the NHS

9 Minutes

Since it began in 1948, the NHS has provided free healthcare to people living and visiting the UK. The model is highly respected and has helped millions of patients over the years, thanks to its non-discriminative nature. Anyone can walk through the door and seek treatment.

The NHS doesn’t just provide medical treatment to those who need it, either. The NHS service is also loud and proud with its acceptance of all different kinds of people and communities, including those who are part of the LGBTQ+ community. That is why you will find the NHS celebrating Pride Month throughout June alongside the rest of the nation and many other countries in the world.

A Brief History of Pride

Pride is a celebration of diversity, acceptance, and love. It’s about embracing yourself and those around you by showing unwavering support for the LGBTQ+ community. It’s also a time to reflect on and appreciate all the sacrifices people made in the past to fight for the equal rights of gay, lesbian, trans, bisexual, and intersex people, including those with any other sexual orientation or gender identity that cannot be defined as straight or cisgender.

The start of Pride can be traced back to the 1969 Stonewall Riots when the police raided a gay club - Stonewall Inn - in New York City. This led to outrage among the bar patrons and surrounding neighbourhoods, leading to a week of violent protests known as the Stonewall Riots. People were officially fighting back against the unjust prejudices they had faced, and that was the start of the gay rights movement.

The UK followed suit, with the first Gay Pride Rally taking place in 1972. At the time, around 2000 people were in attendance, and over the years, those numbers have only grown, with millions of people now attending Pride parades! Nowadays, just as in 1972, it allows people the opportunity to find their community, to be surrounded by those who agree – people should be free to be exactly who they are and love whoever they choose without fear. Fortunately, this all led to the Gender Recognition Act and the legality of gay marriages.

If you look around during Pride month in the year 2023, you will witness rainbows, concerts, parades, shows, and people waving flags in support of the LGBTQ+ community. It’s a vibrant, colourful event that shows off the best of humanity. You’ll notice the NHS taking part in the festivities, too, with many NHS staff wearing rainbow badges and lanyards, and one NHS hospital even showcasing an LGBTQ+ rainbow mural!

Inclusivity and Diversity in the NHS: Why it Matters

The NHS was built on the model that anyone, regardless of their wealth or what they do in their personal lives, should be able to receive free healthcare. That still stands true today. More than that, the NHS is about being a welcome, open space for anyone to feel listened to, so that any person who walks through the door feels safe and can receive the treatment they need.

That is especially important for the LGBTQ+ community, who often face discrimination in their lives. Despite how far the UK has come regarding equality, many LGBTQ+ people still feel they can’t be open about who they are. Many also feel they must hide their LGBTQ+ identity from medical staff. Until that isn’t the case, the fight for inclusivity matters.

It’s also important for NHS staff members to feel safe and welcomed while at work. Many NHS staff are part of the LGBTQ+ community, and they deserve to show up for work every day knowing they can be themselves. That way, NHS hospitals can provide people with work environments that lift people up rather than asking them to hide who they are. As Lee Cawley, a Wellbeing and Inclusion Advisor for the NHS, put it in a quote from an NHSBSA Blog:

“Until everyone can be their true selves, in every sense, we all need Pride.”

What Unique Healthcare Challenges Do LGBTQ+ People Face?

Unfortunately, many LGBTQ+ people face more healthcare challenges than those not part of the LGBTQ+ community. It’s crucial for people to understand this so that more support can be provided. Here are some of the biggest unique challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community.

Mental Health Challenges

Did you know that it’s more common for those in the LGBTQ+ community to struggle with their mental health? According to a Stonewall study, 46% of trans people have considered taking their life in the past year, with 31% of LGBT people who are not trans also having suicidal thoughts. The study also highlights that almost half of LGBTQ+ people have experienced some form of depression. That indicates a real crisis, with those in the LGBTQ+ community needing more support when it comes to their mental health.


Violence towards the LGBTQ+ community was common in the past. Sadly, it still happens today, with homophobia and transphobia sometimes leading to physical violence towards LGBTQ+ people. A BBC article shows that hate crimes against transgender people rose from 1195 in 2016/17 to 2630 in 2020/21. These hate crimes have a catastrophic impact not only on a person’s physical health but on their mental health, too.

Substance Abuse

Unfortunately, substance abuse is more common in the LGBTQ+ community, with many gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans people using tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs on a regular basis. One stat shows that gay and bisexual men are 3x more likely to use drugs than heterosexual men. Of course, this leads to more health issues down the line.

The first step toward helping the LGBTQ+ community is recognising their unique healthcare struggles, which is what the NHS is doing. The NHS is also pushing to support the LGBTQ+ community in more proactive ways, too, especially with providing mental health support. One way is by partnering with MindOut – a mental health service for the LGBTQ+ community, which provides advice, counselling, and community to those who need it. With this partnership, more members of the LGBTQ+ community can reach out and befriend other members of the community to talk through their struggles and find the help they need.

How the NHS has Shown Support for LGBTQ+

The NHS has shown unwavering support for the LGBTQ+ community over the years; here are just a handful of the ways they have done so:

Rainbow Lanyards and Badges

The LGBT rainbow symbolises support for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans people. During pride month, you will likely see this combination of colours everywhere, including on flags, buildings, and even on the lanyards and badges that NHS staff wear.

The NHS started an initiative to get its staff to wear rainbow lanyards and badges. When a member of staff wears one of these, it shows that they support the LGBTQ+ cause, meaning that members of the LGBTQ+ community can then feel more comfortable going to that member of staff with their medical needs.

This is very important considering that many LGBTQ+ people find it difficult to discuss or disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity to healthcare staff, with the study by Stonewall showing that 14% of LGBT people have avoided medical treatment due to fear of discrimination. However, if those same people walk into an NHS facility to find an NHS staff member wearing a rainbow badge or lanyard, they are likely to feel more confident opening up and, in turn, seeking the treatment they need. It makes a difference. Look out for NHS staff members wearing one!

NHS Virtual Pride 2020

Everyone remembers the hardships of 2020 when COVID first hit the UK and lockdowns happened. It was particularly difficult on the NHS, which saw record numbers of patients. Despite the NHS being under significant pressure during this time, it still participated in virtual Pride 2020, indicating its unwavering support for the LGBTQ+ community. During this time, the NHS put on various programmed experiences, allowing the LGBTQ+ community to unite for celebration and education.

Hanging Pride Flags

Flags have always acted as a symbol - the rainbow flag is a symbol of LGBTQ+ support. Over the years, many NHS facilities have participated in pride month by hanging rainbow flags. It’s a simple signpost, but for many members of the LGBTQ+ community, it’s enough to make them feel more comfortable when seeking healthcare. One great example is the North Cumbria Integrated Care Trust, which proudly flew its flag in June 2021.

The LGBTQ+ Pride Flag Mural

Some NHS practices have gone one step further than hanging a pride flag, with The Princess Royal University Hospital launching the permanent LGBTQ+ pride flag mural. This beautiful mural was unveiled on 2nd June 2023 – at the very beginning of pride month – and shows the world that everyone is welcome there. Professor Clive Kay, the Executive of King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, had this to say on the LGBTQ+ supporting mural:

“The flag’s inclusion in the building’s design is a creative and visible way of communicating our commitment as an organisation to equality, diversity and inclusion, which is a vital part of the care we provide.”

NHS Policies and Initiatives that Encourage Inclusivity for LGBTQ+ Communities

The NHS has introduced various policies and initiatives to encourage inclusivity in hospitals and clinics.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Policy: The EDI Policy is a policy that all NHS staff must abide by. Its aim is to ensure the service meets the requirements of all, with no discrimination. It includes equality assessments, visions for the future, and equality monitoring. It also has a three-yearly review. Health and Care LGBTQ+ Leaders Network: The Health and Care LGBTQ+ Leaders Network is a network of healthcare leaders and allies launched by the NHS Confederation to help create a better experience for LGBT people working for the NHS. This social movement has helped amplify LGBTQ+ voices, creating a safe space where the community can discuss issues.

Pride in Practice: Pride in Practice was created after a partnership between the LGBT Foundation and NHS practices in Manchester. It works with NHS practices in that area to improve services for LGBTQ+ people, ensuring they feel supported and welcomed. One way is by decorating with LGBTQ+ posters in GP surgeries. A quote from the Pride in Practice page by ‘lesbian woman, Bolton’ shows that it’s had a tremendous impact:

“I visited my GP last week, and LGBT posters on the notice board made it easier for me to discuss my feelings.”

Of course, there’s still a long way to go. Yes – long strides have been made, but until every LGBTQ+ person feels safe and welcome in all spaces, more needs to be done.

NHS Pride Month Celebrations

Each year, the NHS participates in Pride, waving the rainbow flag and hosting events to showcase its support for the LGBTQ+ community. In 2023, the NHS plans on being a part of the vibrant, colourful, and inclusive event in the following ways:

West London NHS Trust – Pride in London 2023

Pride in London is an enormous, diverse event, with people from all over the UK travelling there to take part. This year, West London NHS Trust will be there to show support! It will even have its own float on the parade, so look out for it.

Yorkshire Ambulance Service - NHS Trust at York Pride 2023

York Pride is always an exciting event, and this year, you’ll find York’s blue light services taking part with its very own Loud and Proud Rainbow! Emily Brenson, the Diversity Advisor at Yorkshire Ambulance Service, has said:

“York Pride is a true celebration of all LGBTQIA+ stands for, and it’s important to Yorkshire Ambulance Service to be a part of bringing the community together.”

Oxford Health Clinical Research Facility - Oxford Pride 2023

The free Oxford Pride event has now been running at Castle Quarter and Leiden Square for twenty years. To celebrate, Oxford Health Clinical Research Facility will be setting up its own stall to chat with members of the public about supporting the LGBTQ+ community.

Of course, there are many more events taking place all over the UK, with plenty of NHS trusts taking part! If you want to get involved, there are plenty of ways to do so, including:

  • Waving the Pride Flag
  • Wearing the LGBTQ+ Rainbow
  • Joining a Parade
  • Setting Up a Pride Event
  • Learning About LGBTQ+ History

Remember – you don’t have to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community to celebrate! If you are, that’s fantastic; if not, you can do any of these activities as an ally.

Pride 2023: An Event for All

NHS trusts and staff members all over the UK are proud to take part in this year’s Pride. It’s a time for reflection – to understand the hardships that the LGBTQ+ community went through in the past and appreciate all they did. It’s also a time to look towards the future, to understand that things still aren’t perfect, and everyone – including the NHS – has a long way to go. Hopefully, in the future, every single member of the LGBTQ+ community will feel welcomed, accepted, and safe in all parts of the community, whether that’s in a healthcare clinic or on the streets of their home town.