In early 2021, the AHSN Network partnered with LGBT Foundation to explore how innovation might play a role in tackling a wide range of health and care issues faced by LGBT+ people in the UK.

Action

The first stage was to produce a compilation of evidence of LGBT+ health inequalities. This built upon the initial work completed by LGBT Foundation in their Hidden Figures research report on LGBT+ health inequalities published in February 2020. It also included findings from their follow-up report on the impact of the pandemic on LGBT+ people.

In March 2021, the AHSN Network and LGBT Foundation sent out a nationwide call for innovations that address the challenges highlighted by this evidence.

This call for innovations had a broad scope: medical technologies and devices; digital health (such as apps and platforms); new or improved services, processes, pathways and models of care; and training and education programmes.

The aim was to identify and promote ground-breaking and inspiring examples of work in this area to support the spread of best practice and learning more widely across health and care services.

The call received 39 individual applications, and 25 applications were put forward for further consideration.

The outcome

From the submissions to our call, we could see significant gaps and challenges faced by innovators and service providers in this space.

The submissions were at widely different stages of development, and many were still at a very early stage. While the pilots had some potentially promising initial outcomes, few groups had carried out complete evaluations.

The next steps for much of the work submitted, in terms of further funding and wider commissioning, are very uncertain. The same could be said for consensus on what a successful pilot looks like. In short, the call for innovations presented more issues to consider.

Rather than showcasing examples of best practice as potential models for adoption, the AHSN Network and LGBT Foundation have published their collective insights and learning from this process. The goal is to help innovators developing products or services aimed at tackling LGBT+ health inequalities.

Next steps

The AHSN Network is keen to support companies and healthcare professionals developing innovations that help address the well-evidenced health inequalities faced by LGBT+ communities. We are encouraging innovators working in this space to reach out to their local AHSN for guidance, support and signposting.

We will also support the valuable work of the NHS Confederation’s Health and Care LGBTQ+ Leaders Network, a social movement comprising LGBTQ+ people and allies from a wide range of roles across health and care.

The LGBTQ+ Leaders Network published a series of recommendations for leaders, service designers and commissioners to better support the specific needs of the LGBTQ+ population and workforce. In the last year they have worked with 11 pilot sites across the country to put these recommendations into action and have created an implementation framework for other healthcare organisations to follow. In our work with innovators and NHS colleagues, we will ensure we promote these recommendations and framework.

Learnings

  • There is a lack of clarity and consistency in how innovators can get services commissioned. Innovators are keen to understand what kind of evidence is needed by commissioners and where evaluation resources might come from.
  • Some submissions described a lack of consensus about how to interpret the findings of pilots, measure their success and agree on the next steps. There were disagreements in approaches and priorities between LGBT+ service users, healthcare professionals and commissioners.
  • Many applicants to the call were struggling to find funding for their work. Some had to secure money from several different pots and others were uncertain about where future funding would be coming from.
  • Some submissions provided positive examples of how to meaningfully involve LGBT+ people in shaping and redesigning services. However, they also illustrated that this approach takes more time, resources, and commitment. Many of the other submissions needed to allocate more to this vital community engagement.
  • Due to a lack of data collection and analysis, health and care services are less able to plan around the identified needs of LGBT+ people. For instance, patient records do not always indicate if people are LGBT+.
  • A strong theme arising from the submissions was the need for more general education and training of all health and care professionals around LGBT+ issues and inequalities.

 

Access more learning case studies – Diversity and Innovation Progress and Learning Report 2022.