The National End of Life Care Programme has published guidance on care for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people at the end of their lives.
It offers guidance and advice for those working with LGBT people, and for LGBT people themselves, whether giving or receiving end of life care.
The guide highlights the importance of avoiding the assumption that someone is heterosexual and avoiding the common misunderstanding that next of kin must be a person related by blood or marriage.
In addition, it advises healthcare staff of the challenges faced if a person has not previously “come out”, as well as recognising that LGBT people that have “come out” may have become isolated from their families of origin and therefore rely on other support networks.
There is also a danger of “not recognising the significance of a relationship” between a patient and another person, which may result in a bereaved person’s grief going unrecognised, it adds.
NEoLCP director Claire Henry said: “The issues and challenges faced by LGBT people at the end of life need a co-ordinated and collaborative response.
“This report sets out the actions that are needed at both individual and organisational levels to make real improvements happen.”
The launch of the guidance coincided with a conference organised by the National Council for Palliative Care, NEoLCP and the University of Nottingham to discuss how to improve end of life care for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Sam Turner, director of public engagement at the National Council for Palliative Care, said: “Good end of life care should be about doing all we can to make people feel safe and secure to talk about their lives and the people who are important to them without worrying they may be discriminated against.
“We only have one chance to get end of life care right for people who are dying, which is why it is so important that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are able to access high quality and appropriate care and support when they are dying.”
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell added: “Becoming seriously ill and knowing you are dying is distressing enough without the added stress of worrying that your carers may not accept you if they know you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
“Fear of homophobic prejudice, rejection and neglect is very real and continues to damage LGBT people’s lives. Many terminally ill LGBT people feel doubly vulnerable - on account of their illnesses and on account of homophobia or transphobia.”