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Supporting LGBT+ patients, colleagues and friends

This LGBT+ history month, physician associate (PA) James Catton discusses his role as a PA, promoting LGBT+ healthcare, and how we can support our LGBT+ patients, colleagues and friends.  

I was part of the first cohort to study as a physician associate at the Norwich Medical School at the University of East Anglia. I passed my national exams in 2018, and since then have worked a dual clinical role. I spend 2 days working in a GP surgery in Suffolk, then work 2 days a week in the acute medical unit at the local hospital.

I’ve actively been promoting the NHS Rainbow Badge Scheme, which aims to educate NHS workers about LGBT+ people and the issues they can experience in accessing healthcare.

James Catton, physician associate

I really love working in both jobs. In GP practice, I reply to the requests from our patients, either through online messaging, video consultation, over the phone or bringing patients in face to face when appropriate. This can include a mix of all types of presentations in primary care, from very young patients to the elderly, a mixture of acute illnesses and managing long-term conditions, and everything else in between. I really love the large multidisciplinary team I work with, which includes GPs, advanced nurse practitioners, paramedics, nurses, healthcare assistants, physios and mental health workers. We’re backed up by an incredible support and admin team.

Every so often, I’ll see a patient in GP surgery and recognise that they need referral to the medics at the hospital. It’s really easy for me to pick up the phone and make the referral to my colleagues at the hospital. If the patient gets admitted, sometimes I even end up seeing them on my ward round the next day.

In my hospital role, I work in the acute assessment unit, which takes adult patients with medical problems. This includes everything from cardiac arrests, pulmonary embolisms, sepsis, headaches, and all sorts of other acute problems that need hospital treatment. I work by meeting the patients as they arrive in the hospital, taking their medical history and examining them clinically to come up with a management plan. Every patient is reviewed by a consultant, and the plan may be improved at that point.

In both roles, I’ve actively been promoting the NHS Rainbow Badge Scheme, which aims to educate NHS workers about LGBT+ people and the issues they can experience in accessing healthcare. It also aims to promote a positive and safe workplace for LGBT+ colleagues, and for LGBT+ patients to be treated in. It’s a little icon that you can wear to show you are an ally of the LGBT+ community.

It has prompted several interesting conversations among my patients who have opened up to me, either about their own struggles with their sexuality or gender identity or seeking information to become more informed to help their LGBT+ friends, family and colleagues.

I love being a physician associate. I like being ground-breaking and I think PAs are an incredibly innovative profession. I am now also working as a PA ambassador in Suffolk and north east Essex for secondary care, which means I get to promote the profession to local hospitals and trusts. I’m also doing a postgraduate certificate in clinical education, so that I can become involved in helping teaching PA students. I would love to teach more about topics in LGBT+ healthcare to students in the future so that they can care for LGBT+ patients better.