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Discrimination Ends Here

Martin is a Deaf man whose first language is British Sign Language. A smoker for many years, Martin finally decided to take the plunge and quit. After looking at the various options available to help him, he decided that he would like the support of a group. On enquiring, however, Martin was told that he could not attend a smoking cessation group because there was no budget for an interpreter.

This is a real example of discrimination which happened in NHSGGC. It was our responsibility to ensure Martin could use this service. To meet our patient commitment, and by law, a BSL interpreter should have been made available.

This section provides real examples of how people have been affected by discrimination within NHSGGC. It highlights the training and resources available to staff to help us treat people fairly. It also looks at what’s being done to ensure a working environment for staff which is free from harassment or discrimination of any nature.

What is Discrimination?

We discriminate when we treat people as if they are all the same even when they have different needs. We also discriminate if we treat people differently in a negative way based on their gender, age, social class, sexual orientation, race, faith & belief or disability.

Every one of us has to be aware of and tackle discrimination. Not only should we want to ensure that patients get the services they need, we should be aware that by law we must not discriminate either against patients or staff members.

People’s Experiences


Jelina is an older Pakistani woman who cannot speak English or read in any language. Jelina was admitted to hospital for a stay of several weeks.

During this time, staff did not communicate with her and she was left completely isolated in her already vulnerable state. Jelina’s family had to draw pictures for her to use to make very simple requests.

What should have happened?

Jelina’s communication needs should have been assessed immediately so that support could have been provided for both her and the staff. This support may have taken the form of an interpreter and/or language assistance materials.


Julie is a 34 year old gay woman whose partner is terminally ill. During a hospital visit, Julie was asked not to show affection to her partner because it was making the other patients feel uncomfortable.

What should have happened?

It was wrong to discriminate against this couple on the basis of their sexual orientation. Julie and her partner obviously wanted to be able to comfort each other at this difficult time in their lives and should have been treated as any other couple.


Tina Watson is a transgender woman. She visited an NHS clinic, and when called from the waiting room was referred to as Stephen Watson – her former name. Tina approached the desk and explained that her name was not Stephen and that she should be referred to as Tina or Ms. Watson. The receptionist stated that they would continue to use the name on his records until he presented a new passport.

What should have happened?

Tina should have been treated in the same way as any other patient amending their personal details. For transgender people this is particularly sensitive and it is our responsibility to ensure records are amended. In this case, where there had clearly been a breakdown in communication, the receptionist should have apologised for the mistake, addressed the patient as requested and ensured that the paperwork was updated.


Charlotte and her husband are asylum seekers from Africa. Pregnant with her 4th child, Charlotte attended the maternity services in her local hospital.

After a smooth pregnancy, Charlotte gave birth to a healthy baby boy. Prior to discharge from the hospital, Charlotte was given information about contraception. This is common practice. However, the midwife introduced the subject by saying, “We don’t want you coming back here every year – you need to do something about this.” Charlotte at first thought that she was joking but quickly realised she was serious. Shocked, she described the approach of the midwife as ‘provocative’.

What should have happened?

The comment made to Charlotte was clearly based on the midwife’s own assumptions about her circumstances. The implication that Charlotte’s family was the result of thoughtlessness or ignorance, or that Charlotte and her husband would not want more children, was presumptuous and insulting. The contraception advice should have been offered in a friendly, informative manner. An open approach would have allowed the patient to disclose any particular concerns.


John is both visually and hearing impaired. He faces a range of obstacles every time he attends services. Firstly, he finds it difficult to read the correspondence he receives about appointments. This means he has to rely on someone else reading what can often be personal, private information. When attending an appointment, he can’t hear when his name is called out and, on one occasion, despite alerting staff to his situation, missed his appointment completely.

John uses the support of a guide/communicator for any regular appointments or hospital stays. However, during a recent admission, staff went ahead with a procedure after his communicator had been asked to leave. With no way of knowing what was happening or why, John was extremely distressed by this traumatic situation.

What should have happened?

John should have been asked what could be done to make written information accessible to him. Letters should then have been sent to him in an appropriate format, e.g. large print. Noting John’s communication needs in his file would have informed staff of the right steps to take. Similarly, if staff had been aware of his hearing impairment, then they would have understood the need to go and get John in the waiting room, rather than calling out.

Everyone is different, and by talking to John through his communicator his communication needs could have been assessed and acted on. For example, staff may have been able to communicate with him in an emergency by learning the deafblind alphabet and putting a poster behind his bed.