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Autism Health Inequalities

A view from inside the system

by Elliot

I recently started a medical role working in the NHS. As a black, queer, non-binary person with autism, I’ve found it a strange yet eye-opening experience. 

Learning how our healthcare system works has changed the way I attend doctors and hospital appointments. It also highlighted the flaws in our healthcare system. There are significant flaws in the quality of healthcare QTIPOC people get, and there are still so many barriers to health care that need to be broken down, and biases that need to be eliminated. 

I think the root of the problem is that there is such a big lack of education for trans health care needs. There is no curriculum that teaches health care professionals about trans healthcare and that leaves massive holes in knowledge. Being a patient now I feel is a lot easier; I’m well informed in how the process works, but only because it’s part of my job. 

I’ve felt so many times that I was not listened to or taken seriously when I tried to access the care I needed. It was demoralising to keep going for repeated appointments, trying to get someone to listen to me. It took over seven months for someone to give me inhalers for my new diagnosis of asthma as they thought my breathing difficulties were panic attacks- despite me telling them I was confident I was not having a panic attack. 

I’ve found it hard to get the right health care I need as many health care professions aren’t aware of trans healthcare needs. I’ve been denied contraception because my doctor wasn’t comfortable prescribing contraception whilst I was on testosterone. To be trans and black throughout the years has meant that I have had to be an expert in my own health. 

Now as a healthcare professional my tips for everyone would be take some time if you have it, to learn about yourself medically. Have a list of medical conditions that you have, and any medications you take and keep a note of them. There are various user-friendly and informative websites that can help with this (for example, Patient Info).

Most importantly you as a patient will always know yourself best, more so than any healthcare professional. So if you feel like you haven’t been heard, or you’re still concerned, you are entitled to a second opinion. You have the right to question any decisions a health professional makes and request clarification why they made any given decision. 

Going through what I went through as a patient has helped shape me into the medical practitioner I am now. My goal is to empower as many patients as possible and to impart as much information and knowledge as I can so that my patients feel comfortable and understood.  It is also imperative that the trans community understand their rights. Trans people have rights, and we have the right not to be discriminated against when accessing healthcare.

This article was funded by The LGBT+ Futures: Equity Fund in partnership with the The National Lottery Community Fund.