Driven by his own experience of discrimination, Michael has made it his mission to change hospice care in Cornwall for the better: training hundreds of people around the county about diversity and inclusivity at the end of life. 

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A life-long commitment


Michael Thomas, Education Facilitator at Cornwall Hospice Care, is bringing together a life-long commitment to diversity and inclusion, with a wide-spanning career in palliative and healthcare. Over the past year, he’s been using Hospice UK’s ‘I just want to be me’ report on trans and gender inclusion in end-of-life care to deliver training across Cornwall and beyond.  

Michael says that he’s careful to ensure that with this training, he’s not just ‘preaching to the converted’. As well as delivering ‘diversity at the end of life’ training to over 350 people, he ensures Cornwall Hospice Care has a presence at myriad community events. He’s set a personal goal: to ensure that the hospice attends every single Pride event in Cornwall.  

For LGBTQ+ History month, Michael discusses his work improving care for everyone in Cornwall, and what still needs to change.   

An LGBTQ+ flag hangs from the structure of a stage, outdoors
Michael ensures the hospice has community presence

Michael’s motivations


Michael’s lived experienced as a gay man has given him a determined commitment to diversity in all its forms: sexual, racial and religious, to name a few. He knows what it’s like to be judged and discriminated against and is on a mission to ensure that no one faces that at the end of their life:  

“I was a gay man in Narnia for many years. I came out... and then went back in again. I've experienced a lot of hostility and abuse for my sexuality.”

But Michael adds that he thinks things are changing in Cornwall, as more people feel able to live their chosen life. As well as more gender diversity, Cornwall is becoming more multicultural: more languages are being spoken and more faiths are practised. He’s keen to ensure that hospices are changing too:  

“We have older transgender people who are now more comfortable being their true selves, and we need to make sure the hospice can care for them to the same high standard they would a cis-gendered patient."

A couple sits in a van, smiling at the camera
More people feel able to live their chosen life

‘I just want to be me’


In 2023, Hospice UK published ‘I just want to be me’. This report uses real-world experience to highlight the needs of trans and gender-diverse people, who frequently experience inequitable access to health and care services, including at the end of life.  

‘I just want to be me’ sets out recommendations for what hospices and palliative care professionals can do to make end of life care more equitable and accessible for everyone. Michael explains how the report has been a vital tool for delivering his diversity training:  

“The personal stories in the report really highlight the work still left to do. There’s a trans woman called Pip Blaylock who goes 10 days without being offered personal hygiene in an acute setting. It screams injustice. The reports title says it all: ‘I just want to me be'. You know, I don't fall into any category – I’m me. This is who I am.”  

There is still work to be done


Whilst his own hospice, Cornwall Hospice Care, champions Michael and his role, he’s keen to ensure that he’s not shouting into the proverbial echo chamber. He says that he would love to see his diversity training become mandatory for all hospice staff.  

He envisages a world in which everyone – patients, and staff – are able to live their chosen life to the full whilst in a hospice:

“What I want more than anything is for diversity – not just LGBTQ+, but all diversity, whether that's culture, religion, spirituality – to be very much involved in shaping our training, so that we get it right for everybody.” 

What’s next for ‘I just want to be me’?


After seeing the tangible, real life impact of ‘I just want to be me’, over the next year Hospice UK will be continuing work in this area, with further research and resources to support hospices to be accessible and inclusive to trans and gender diverse people.

If you would like to find out more about this work or get involved in future upcoming roundtable discussions, email our Policy team

Image credit: Centre for Ageing Better