A Dorset MP is helping to combat the stigma against NHS staff and patients who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

MP Conor Burns has announced he is backing the new pan-Dorset NHS LGBT network, led by Dorset HealthCare, which will provide support for staff and patients experiencing struggles with their sexuality.

Several local NHS organisations, including Dorset County Hospital, have joined forces to provide a ‘one-stop shop’ of information and support.

Speaking at the network’s launch, Mr Burns, who is MP for Bournemouth West, Alderney and Branksome East, said he believes it is a ‘step in the right direction’ in tackling the stigma around being gay or transgender in Dorset.

He said: “I really want to show my support and solidarity for this great initiative. This is a topic I feel extremely passionate about as I have encountered prejudice in my own personal life and in politics for being gay.

“I’ve been able to overcome this, but it wasn’t easy, and I think it is vital that others feel confident enough to ‘come out and speak out’ around their sexuality, and not feel discriminated against.

“It is great to see the diversity of the public and private sector organisations pledging their support, and I hope this will entice smaller ones to follow suit so we can build strength in numbers.”

Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals, Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), Dorset Mental Health Forum, and LiveWell Dorset have also signed up to the network.

The group will initially meet every other month, and will be promoted at events throughout 2018.

Dave Corbin, equality and diversity Manager for Dorset HealthCare, said: “We’ve had a long-standing ambition to have an LGBT network across local NHS organisations, so it is great to finally get one in place.

“We want people to feel like they can access help at the earliest possible stage, and not be afraid to be open and honest about their sexuality.”

Anyone wanting to get involved can contact chairman Jonai da Silva, on Jonai.Dasilva@nhs.net