UK Government Secretly Shuts Down NHS Pride Programme Ben Hunte

The LGBTQ diversity programme run by England’s National Health Service (NHS) is being shut down, VICE News can reveal. The NHS Rainbow Badge scheme employs a team of people to...
Posted in Diversity
February 9, 2024
UK Government Secretly Shuts Down NHS Pride Programme Ben Hunte

The LGBTQ diversity programme run by England’s National Health Service (NHS) is being shut down, VICE News can reveal.

The NHS Rainbow Badge scheme employs a team of people to assess LGBTQ inclusion policies across the health service, as well as providing hundreds of thousands of healthcare staff with Pride flag pin badges to wear at work.

Civil servants have told VICE News that UK government officials within the Department of Health and Social Care encouraged NHS bosses to pull the funding of the diversity scheme, as part of a wider pushback against LGBTQ inclusion—and especially trans inclusion programmes. 

After approving more funding for the project several months ago, whistleblowers tell VICE News that NHS England suddenly “u-turned and ghosted” those involved. Services have now been “wound down,” and some staff are struggling to work while NHS England refuses to communicate with them about what has changed. 

Responding to these claims, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said, “taxpayers rightly expect value for money, which is why we expect the NHS and all of the department’s arms-length bodies to continuously review whether their diversity and inclusion roles are good value, and to always consider ways to improve.”

VICE News understands that many people working directly on the project have not been told it will be ending. Those familiar with the plans said hospitals can expect to be briefed on the project closure “within the next few weeks.”

Do you have a story to share? We’d love to hear from you. You can contact Ben Hunte at [email protected], or via X (Twitter) or Instagram.

“The funding cut is especially interesting timing considering it’s February, which in the UK is LGBT History Month, and this year’s theme is medicine,” a whistleblower told VICE News.

While the highly-successful programme was commissioned by the NHS, it was being led by a group of LGBTQ charities, including the LGBT Foundation and Stonewall. Stonewall confirmed to VICE News that the scheme’s funding was cut and the charity stopped being involved as a “main partner” last September. The LGBT Foundation did not comment. 

Other charities that were previously involved have confirmed that hundreds of thousands of pounds of funding has been “secretly pulled” from the diversity scheme, after the funding was initially approved by NHS England. They added that NHS Rainbow Badge services have been “wound down to nothing,” and bosses have not communicated why. 

“The funding cut is especially interesting timing considering it’s February, which in the UK is LGBT History Month, and this year’s theme is medicine.”

VICE News asked NHS England when it will issue an update, as well as what will happen to current staff, merchandise, and the thousands of pounds of previously allocated funding. 

While we were initially told that funding has been pulled and this will be communicated publicly soon, an NHS England spokesperson declined to answer our questions, instead responding: “The NHS Rainbow Badge programme is an important initiative to address LGBT health inequalities and to support LGBT inclusion, for both patients and staff. Our work in this area will continue.” 

This is not the first time the government has intervened in the NHS Rainbow Badge scheme, one whistleblower added. “Last year, the national team tried to change the pin badge to the ‘Progress Pride flag,’ which is more inclusive for trans people and people of colour. It was blocked by the Department of Health and Social Care. They said it was too woke.”

According to another insider, it has not yet been decided what will happen to the rainbow badges that thousands of staff currently wear at work every day, or to the Rainbow Badge awards some hospitals have been given for inclusive policies. That person believes “it could be up to each NHS trust to decide whether they want them gone.”

“There is no way that the NHS Rainbow Badge scheme can keep going without funding. If they wanted to continue the work, they would have started it months ago – or told staff what’s happening,” the person who has previously worked alongside the project told VICE News. They, along with all sources quoted in this article, asked to remain anonymous for fear of backlash from the NHS. 

Over two thirds of England’s NHS trusts have provided their employees with rainbow badges, and over a third have signed up to be assessed for how well they reduce the barriers LGBTQ people face when accessing healthcare. 

Insiders say the scheme has become “increasingly difficult” to work on because of hostility from the UK government and right-wing media. In recent months, it has been attacked by the Daily Mail, The Sun, The Telegraph, Talk TV, and GB News.

One whistleblower told VICE News: “The Rainbow Badge scheme is the most vanilla scheme ever, it’s just about basic healthcare and recognition of health inequalities for LGBTQ people. The continuing threats to trans health provision have now progressed into LGBTQ health, and that’s a very bad sign.”

“The Rainbow Badge scheme is the most vanilla scheme ever, it’s just about basic healthcare and recognition of health inequalities for LGBTQ people.”

Last year, The Sun claimed the NHS had “sick priorities” for trying to improve the experience of LGBTQ staff and patients, and compared the scheme to the Lucy Letby murders. Letby, a nurse at the Countess of Chester Hospital, was found guilty of murdering seven babies and attempting to murder six others in August 2023.

In response to the negative coverage, a source close to the former Health Secretary Steve Barclay told the Daily Mail, “Any scheme which does not recognize the role of women and biological sex in the NHS directly contradicts ministerial steers and raises serious questions of propriety. The Secretary of State has been very clear that women should be called women and freedom of speech upheld. He expects that guidance to be followed.” Victoria Atkins replaced Steve Barclay as Health Secretary in November 2023.

The current government’s hostility towards the NHS Rainbow Badge scheme is a massive change from the support that it once received from politicians. Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock was seen wearing his rainbow pin badge throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and he previously said he loved the scheme.

The programme began in 2018 with staff at one of the UK’s busiest children’s hospitals, the Evelina London, wearing NHS badges designed in the style of the LGBTQ Pride flag. The NHS doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers wanted to wear them to “demonstrate that they’re aware of the issues that LGBTQ people can face when accessing healthcare.

The following year, the project was taken over by NHS England and rolled out nationally. In the first year and a half of the project, a quarter of a million NHS staff signed up and received a rainbow badge, pledging their support to LGBTQ colleagues and patients. 

In the first year and a half of the project, a quarter of a million NHS staff signed up and received a rainbow badge.

In recent years, the programme was expanded, with a full-time team working on it, and a grading system was developed for the hospitals and trusts that signed up. Points would be awarded to hospitals for positive moves towards LGBTQ inclusion, like delivering training sessions, having gender neutral toilets, and encouraging medics to ask patients for their pronouns. The best organisations were given gold, silver, or bronze awards. 

Out of 215 NHS trusts in England, over 150 launched NHS Rainbow Badges and over 70 had been graded for their LGBTQ inclusivity. 

Care providers and patients across the country have frequently spoken out about how the scheme has made them feel more comfortable in healthcare environments. 

Speaking to the NHS press team, a staff nurse said, “sometimes a baby will have two mums and I’ve noticed that some parents haven’t always felt comfortable being open with all staff members. Once I saw a mum looking at my badge and after that she knew it was okay to just be herself.”


​The NHS Rainbow Badge scheme has been adopted by hundreds of hospitals and hundreds of thousands of healthcare workers.  

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EDI Calendar 2024


Month-long observances:

  • National Mentoring Month
  • Poverty in America Awareness Month
  • Slavery and Human Trafficking Awareness Month

Important January EDI calendar dates:

    • January 1 – New Year’s Day
    • January 4 – World Braille Day
    • January 7 – Coptic Orthodox Christmas
    • January 25 – Mahayana New Year (Buddhist)
    • January 13 – Maghi (Sikh)
    • January 21 – World Religion Day
    • January 15 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
    • January 24 – International Day of Education
    • January 26 – International Customs Day
    • January 27 – International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Month-long observances:

  • American Heart Month
  • Black History Month

Important February EDI calendar dates:

    • February 1 – National Freedom Day
    • February 2 – Groundhog Day
    • February 4 — Rosa Parks Day
    • February 6 — Safer Internet Day
    • February 10 — Lunar New Year (Year of the Dragon)
    • February 11 – International Day of Women & Girls in Science
    • February 12 – International Epilepsy Day
    • February 13 – Mardi Gras
    • February 14 – Ash Wednesday
    • February 14 – Valentine’s Day
    • February 15 – Nirvana Day (Buddhist)
    • February 15 – International Childhood Cancer Day
    • February 17 – Random Acts of Kindness Day
    • February 19 – Family Day (Canada)
    • February 19 – President’s Day (USA)
    • February 20 – World Day of Social Justice

Month-long observances:

  • Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month
  • Ethnic Equality Month
  • Gender Equality Month
  • Greek-American Heritage Month
  • Irish-American Heritage Month
  • National Colon Cancer Awareness Month
  • National Kidney Month
  • National Multiple Sclerosis Awareness and Education Month
  • National Women’s History Month

Important March EDI calendar dates:

    • March 1 – Employee Appreciation Day
    • March 8 – International Women’s Day
    • March 8 – Maha Shivarati (Hindu)
    • March 10 –  Ramadan begins (Islam)
    • March 10 – Harriet Tubman Day (USA)
    • March 14 – Pi π Day
    • March 14 – Equal Pay Day
    • March 15 – International Day to Combat Islamophobia
    • March 17 – St. Patrick’s Day
    • March 21 – World Down Syndrome Day
    • March 23 – Purim (Jewish)
    • March 25 – International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade
    • March 24 – Palm Sunday (Christian)
    • March 25 – Holi (Hindu)
    • March 29– Good Friday (Christian)
    • March 31 – International Transgender Day of Visibility
    • March 31 – Easter (Christian)
    • March 31 – César Chávez Day (USA)

Month-long observances:

  • Arab-American Heritage Month
  • Autism Awareness Month
  • Celebrate Diversity Month
  • Earth Month
  • National Child Abuse Prevention Month
  • National Volunteer Month

Important April EDI calendar dates:

    • April 2 – World Autism Awareness Day
    • April 5 – Laylat al-Qadr (Muslim)
    • April 7 – World Health Day
    • April 9 – Eid-al-Fitr/End of Ramadan (Muslim)
    • April 12 – National Day of Silence (LGBTQ+)
    • April 21 – Start of Ridvan (Baha’i)
    • April 22 – Passover begins (Jewish)
    • April 22 – Earth Day
    • April 24 – Administrative Professionals Day
    • April 28 –World Day for Safety and Health at Work
    • April 30 – Passover ends

Month-long observances:

  • ALS Awareness Month
  • Haitian Heritage Month
  • Indian Heritage Month
  • Jewish-American Heritage Month
  • Mental Health Awareness Month
  • National Asian American and South Pacific Islander Heritage Month
  • Older Americans Month
  • South Asian American Heritage Month

Important May EDI calendar dates:

    • May 5 – Cinco de Mayo
    • May 5 – Yom Hashoah (Jewish)
    • May 12 – Mother’s Day
    • May 17 – International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia
    • May 19 – Malcolm X Day (USA)
    • May 20 – Victoria Day (Canada)
    • May 20 – International Human Resources Day
    • May 21 – World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development
    • May 23 – Declaration of the Bab (Baha’i)
    • May 26 – Arbor Day
    • May 29 – Ascension of Baha’u’llah (Baha’i)
    • May 27 – Memorial Day

Month-long observances:

  • Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month
  • Black Music Month
  • National Caribbean American Heritage Month
  • Pride Month (LGBTQ+)

Important June EDI calendar dates

    • June 5 – World Environment Day
    • June 9 – Race Unity Day
    • June 12 – Loving Day
    • June 16 – Eid al-Adha (Muslim)
    • June 16 – Father’s Day
    • June 19 – Juneteenth
    • June 20 – World Refugee Day
    • June 20 – Litha, Summer Solstice (Pagan)
    • June 21 – National Indigenous Peoples Day (Canada)
    • June 23 – Public Service Day
    • June 24 – St-Jean-Baptiste Day (Quebec)
    • June 27 – Helen Keller Day (USA)
    • June 28 – Pride Day (LGBTQ+) (varies by city and country)

Month-long observances:

  • French-American Heritage Month

Important July EDI calendar dates

    • July 1 – Canada Day (Canada)
    • July 4 – Independence Day (USA)
    • July 7 – Al-Hijra begins (Muslim)
    • July 9 – Martyrdom of the Bab (Baha’i)
    • July 11 – World Populace Day
    • July 14 – Bastille Day
    • July 18 – International Nelson Mandela Day
    • July 24 – Pioneer Day (Mormon)
    • July 24 – International Self-Care Day
    • July 26 – National Disability Independence Day (commemorates the signing of the Americans With Disabilities Act)
    • July 28 – Parents’ Day (USA)
    • July 30 – International Day of Friendship

Month-long observances:

  • National Civility Month

Important EDI calendar dates:

    • August 7 – Purple Heart Day
    • August 9 – International Day of the World’s Indigenous People
    • August 13 – Left-Handers Day
    • August 17 – Marcus Garvey Day (Jamaican)
    • August 19 – World Humanitarian Day
    • August 21 – Senior Citizens Day
    • August 26 – Women’s Equality Day
    • August 26 – Krishna Janmashtami (Hindu)

Month-long observances:

  • Hispanic Heritage Month
  • National Guide Dog Month
  • Suicide Prevention Month

Important September EDI calendar dates:

  • September 2 – Labor Day
  • September 5 – International Day of Charity
  • September 10 – World Suicide Prevention Day
  • September 10 – Grandparents’ Day
  • September 11 – Patriot Day (U.S.A.)
  • September 15 – International Day of Democracy
  • September 16 – Mexican Independence Day
  • September 18 – International Equal Pay Day
  • September 21 – International Day of Peace
  • September 21 – World Gratitude Day
  • September 22 – American Business Women’s Day
  • September 26 – HR Appreciation Day
  • September 27 – National Native American Day
  • September 30 – National Day for Truth & Reconciliation (Canada)



Month-long observances:

  • Breast Cancer Awareness Month
  • Bullying Prevention Month
  • Domestic Violence Awareness Month
  • Filipino-American Heritage Month
  • German-American Heritage Month
  • Italian-American Heritage Month
  • LGBTQ History Month
  • National Work and Family Month
  • Polish-American Heritage Month
  • Family History Month

Important October EDI calendar dates:

    • October 2 – International Day of Nonviolence
    • October 2 – Rosh Hashanah begins (Jewish)
    • October 3 – Navrati begins (Hindu)
    • October 10 – World Mental Health Day
    • October 11 – National Coming Out Day (LGBTQ+)
    • October 11 – Yom Kippur (Jewish)
    • October 14 – National Indigenous Peoples’ Day (United States)
    • October 14 – Thanksgiving Day (Canada)
    • October 16 – Sukkot (Jewish)
    • October 16 – Bosses’ Day
    • October 19 – Spirit Day (LGBTQ+ anti-bullying)
    • October 20 – Birth of the Bab (Baha’i)
    • October 20 – Sikh Holy Day (birth of Guru Granth)
    • October 21 – Waste Reduction Week
    • October 22 – International Stuttering Awareness Day
    • October 31 – Halloween
    • October 31 – Diwali (Hindu)

Month-long observances:

  • Diabetes Awareness Month
  • National Native American, American Heritage Month

Important EDI calendar dates:

    • November 1-2 – Dia de Muertos
    • November 1 – All Saints’ Day (Roman Catholic)
    • November 1 – National Stress Awareness Day
    • November 2 – All Souls’ Day
    • November 5 – Election Day (USA)
    • November 9 – World Freedom Day
    • November 9 – World Adoption Day
    • November 11 – Remembrance Day
    • November 11 – Veterans Day
    • November 12 – Birth of Baha’u’llah (Baha’i)
    • November 13 – World Kindness Day
    • November 16 – International Day for Tolerance
    • November 19 – International Men’s Day
    • November 20 – Transgender Day of Remembrance
    • November 20 – World Children’s Day (Human Rights, U.N.)
    • November 28 – Thanksgiving
    • November 25 – Day of the Covenant (Baha’i)
    • November 27 – Ascension of Abdu’l-Baha (Baha’i)

Month-long observances:

  • HIV/AIDS Awareness Month
  • Universal Human Rights Month

Important December EDI calendar dates:

    • December 1 – World AIDS Day
    • December 3 – International Day for People with Disabilities
    • December 3 – Giving Tuesday (USA)
    • December 5 – International Volunteer Day
    • December 7 – Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day (USA)
    • December 9 – International Genocide Prevention Day
    • December 10 – International Human Rights Day
    • December 18 – International Migrants Day
    • December 21 – Yule Winter Solstice (Pagan)
    • December 25 – Christmas (Christian)
    • December 25 – Hanukkah begins at sunset (Jewish)
    • December 26 – Kwanzaa week (Celebration of African Customs & Cultures)
    • December 26 – Boxing Day
    • December 31 – New Year’s Eve
    • January 2, 2025 – Hanukkah ends at sunset (Jewish)

Please note that while we have attempted to include all important diversity and inclusion dates in this calendar, we do not claim completeness and regret if an important date has escaped our attention. We appreciate any feedback or comments that contribute to completeness. Thank you for your understanding.

Let’s continue to recognize and celebrate diversity and inclusion throughout the year and work towards creating an inclusive environment for all.

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