By Jack Chadwick
But for LGBTQ people, the stakes are higher: we're more reliant on the NHS than most. Because of this, when disputes occur over how services are managed, they should take on a special significance for us. The consequences of damage to the NHS is disproportionate harm to ourselves as a community.
We acknowledge that this higher dependence is complicated. Our identities mean we regularly encounter problems for which the NHS is the main source of help. There're now lots of services aimed at dealing with explicitly LGBTQ issues and the list is longer than you might think; ideally it should be getting longer as we win recognition for the importance of the specific health troubles we face.
While the services we receive are really not perfect, they're better than what they'd be if we stood to one side and let the NHS get wrecked. Especially because, when cuts are made, the axe tends to fall first on our services despite an already chronic level of underfunding. We're the soft targets for funding cuts because our services only matter to just us - "a niche" of the population. This is the same for the services local authorities provide, like shelters for homeless LGBTQ young people, social care for our elderly, and youth groups guarding against the isolation caused by still rife bullying. Our advocacy for the NHS, like our advocacy for public services in general, should seek to raise the profile of the services specifc to us. We also need more awareness of how we disprotionately access more mainstream areas of treatments, like mental healthcare.
This week will see the first strike action against the government's proposed contract changes for junior doctors, changes that would translate into a 30% real terms pay cut. It follows a day of protest just yesterday against the abolition of the NHS bursary - the money nursing students receive as pay for the long shifts they work on NHS wards. For the reasons already outlined, this dispute is something that should concern us and everyone who considers themselves our ally.
While we definitely should worry about the way people are treated in their working lives regardless of our own interests, the outcome of this dispute will have potentially life altering consequences. In this instance, the working conditions are our healthcare conditions. When the people treating us are overstretched, undervalued, or completely unpaid - as would be the case for trainee nurses - the services will suffer. These changes would undermine all NHS services, risking future staff shortages as people are put off from the professions, made more accute by a loss of skill due to financial pressures driving practitioners to spend less time in training.
This dispute, and all other disputes over the NHS and public services, gives an example of an situation where clear threats exist even without overt prejudice. For these reasons we should support the strikes, support the nurses, and make a conscious effort to raise more awareness of what we as a group need from both the NHS and local authorities.
Please consider supporting NHS workers. Attend your local picket, share information about the protests, and get your own union - student or otherwise - to offer their support.