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LGBT+ History Month with Dr Chris Thomas

Dr Chris Thomas profile photo, sitting relaxed in white shirt, looking at camera
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This LGBT+ History Month, the theme is Under the Scope. The month highlights incredible LGBTQIA+ professionals in the NHS and broader health care who delivered exceptional care, especially during the pandemic. 

Dr Chris Thomas, is a Consultant Geriatrician and a friend of Innovate Trust. He works across Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan, providing care to older adults.  

In addition to his work in the wards of the University Hospital of Wales, his contribution has greatly impacted the design of our Dementia Clinics, Memory Teams, and Parkinson’s Clinics work. His continued dedication makes him a beacon of compassion and expertise within our local hospitals.

Dr Thomas is also passionate about creating inclusive health care environments for everyone. His commitment to inclusivity has made a real difference in many lives. We thought of him first when this year’s LGBT+ History Month theme was announced. Dr Thomas’s work is an inspiration.

It is important to me that LGBTQIA+ people know they can come to me for solidarity and support.

I want to be someone they can trust and feel comfortable talking to about their health concerns.

NHS Rainbow lanyard

Dr Thomas wears a rainbow lanyard every day to signal his commitment to providing a safe and welcoming space for all. Rainbow lanyards are worn by NHS teams to signify they are a friend, advocate, or a member of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Covid-19 pandemic

It was all hands on deck, really. We had to quickly create a special rota system that could simultaneously manage chronic diseases, handle the influx of Covid-19 patients, and manage emergency care. 

We had already started utilising technology for semi-virtual clinics within our Memory Team and Parkinson's Disease clinics. This was something we could all see would be beneficial for some time, to effectively keep regular contact and advise our most vulnerable patients.  It was only 3 weeks into the pandemic that we were able to get almost back up to speed and running as normal. Or as normal as we could possibly make it. It put us in a strong position to keep things running relatively smoothly, even through the pandemic chaos. 

We are incredibly proud of our Bevan Exemplar Status, [an accolade which highlights commitment to service excellence and, in this case, an acknowledgement of the team’s innovative use of technology], which we were awarded following that time.

20 years of change

Dr Thomas has worked in Healthcare for 20 years. In his years, he has seen many changes in attitudes and care towards members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Looking back, my experience of medical school 20 years ago was not as inclusive as it should have been, particularly regarding women’s health and LGBTQIA+ representation. It is really good to see the British Medical Association (BMA) actively working to address this by including more positive role models and inclusive materials in medical education.

I think moving on, I can see that being gay is far more accepted. There is still a struggle for Trans people, but I have definitely seen progress, and in 10 years, that will be different. 

Coffeeshop owners Frazer and Chris standing behind the serving counter

A Doctor and a Baker

When Dr Thomas is not busy making a difference, he can be seen behind the counter at Whitchurch’s coffee shop, Against the Grain.

Against the Grain is Cardiff’s first dedicated gluten-free coffee shop, owned by Frazer Twigg, Dr Thomas’s partner of 25 years. Together, they bake a stunning selection of gluten-free cakes and savouries on-site. Dr Thomas’ own experiences with Coeliac disease inspire his passion for gluten-free alternatives.

Business owner Frazer Twigg prioritises making the coffee shop an inclusive and welcoming place, taking extra steps to make it Dementia friendly.

The coffee shop has even received a visit from Alzheimer’s Society. On the front door of the coffee shop, you will notice a sticker recognising Against the Grain as working to become a Dementia friendly establishment. 

We are definitely somewhere people are happy for their older family members to visit, knowing they will not be taken advantage of. We have made sure we have high-contrast colours in our bathrooms to reduce disorientation, and we always have time to break down any information.

The main point here is that everyone dealing with the public should be making changes. It does not take much for people to have just heard of something, which is why equality, diversity, and inclusion initiatives like [LGBT+ History Month] are so important.

We appreciate Dr Thomas taking time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about spreading awareness of LGBTQIA+ inclusion, Dementia friendly initiatives, and exceptionally tasty treats!

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