The NHS is an inclusive and supportive employer, having been named one of Britain’s top 100 LGBT+ employers in 2020. It has several staff networks, provides training for staff members on gender, sexuality and diversity, and is a safe, inclusive and open place to work. We recently wrote a blog on LGBT+ doctors in the NHS in honor of LGBT+ history month, and in this blog we interview Neil Hardy-Lofaro, Deputy COO at Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
What has your journey in the NHS been like?
I joined the NHS in 1996, after graduating from the University of Aberdeen in humanities and joining the NHS on the GMS. Since then, I have worked in a number of operational roles, in more rural communities such as Powys and Gloucester, and more cosmopolitan cities such as London and Essex. I am now Deputy COO at Gloucester Hospital NHS Foundation Trust- essentially third in command of day-to-day duties.
What has your experience been as a member of the LGBT+ community in the NHS?
I didn’t come out until I was 38, and I am 48 currently. I was working in London and Essex at the time, in open and welcoming communities. I met my husband in 2012 when I was working in Essex- on an app- so it does work- and we became inseparable. We got married in 2014 in London with our family, friends, and colleagues. The NHS is a friendly and non-judgmental environment to work in, and it is social, so we decided to invite our colleagues to our wedding. We had a great day at Tower Bridge and going down the Thames on a charter boat!
How have you found working in Gloucester?
Gloucester is very different to London- it is two small cities in one rural area. We have an equality and diversity board at the hospital that celebrates all communities and organises social activities, for things like the King’s Coronation and Pride Month, if that’s your kind of thing. Community is really important at the trust, as Gloucester is so rural, and the trust works to support employees as much as possible. Though it is social and there are boards to support LGBT+ staff, there is no pressure to be involved if you are not comfortable- you can participate as much or as little as you want.
We also have our rainbow lanyards and badges we wear at Gloucester, reflecting our core values of tolerance and support. The badges make us approachable to other members of the community, so there is always a friendly face to turn to.
Would you recommend the NHS as an employer to fellow members of the LGBT+ community?
Every organisation I have worked in within the NHS has had a very open approach, and I have always worked with people on similar journeys to me. I’ve worked will all walks of life in the NHS, and I’ve never worked with anyone who has made me question the open and honest nature of the organisation.
Sometimes members of the public do ask about our badges and lanyards- but they’re also great door openers for patients, or their family members. They might be uncomfortable or uneasy, but seeing the badges helps them feel comfortable, and we’ve had some great feedback on our patient interaction.
Gloucester is a slightly smaller city that London or Essex- it is quite traditional, but it is also open and diverse. It is relatively compact, and it feels safe- different to London, where you are one of many, many people.
Do you have advice for people who have not come out yet, or may not feel confident in their identity?
Don’t feel pressure to be out and proud if you are not ready. You can be assured there is a safe space when you approach people. They will respect your confidence but help you to be yourself. Support can look like touching base, or just grabbing a coffee. You won’t have any shortage of people to talk to.
I had a difficult journey- I have only been out for ten years- before that, as a single person, I just didn’t feel the need to tell anybody. But there is a community there that you can get involved in, both within and outside of the NHS. The NHS is a really good conduit for starting out and getting comfortable with who you are or who you want to be- we have boards for diversity, and it is a really inclusive organisation from the top down.
Is there anything else you want to tell people?
No matter how you identify, you will find good contacts and people who genuinely want to support you, as much as you want to be supported. Even people not in the LGBT+ community join in and admire LGBT+ people in NHS history- we have a really great social calendar, with some money from the trust to support that. It’s a really exciting time. I’m excited to work for the NHS as a whole- yes, it has its challenges, but where doesn’t? You can make such a difference to your colleagues, patients and yourself by just being here, and being who you are.
Are you looking for a new role in the NHS?
We’re committed to championing diversity and inclusion in the NHS. Finding a role in the NHS as an LGBT+ doctor is easier, thanks to Remedium’s specialist recruitment team. We can provide expert, tailored advice according to your job requirements- and once you are ready to make the move to the UK, our onboarding team will be on hand to support you and your family. We have already helped over 3,000 doctors find jobs and relocate to the UK, supporting all the way along the journey, from CV writing, to interview support, all the way through to relocation. If you are interested in relocating to the UK, please register your details here, and one of our relocation experts will be in touch.