For most people, a visit to their GP results in advice on how best to tackle their particular ailment and what medication they can take to help them either cure their ills or manage their symptoms.
If, however, you are paying a trip to your doctor to share feelings relating to your gender variance, the response can be quite different. Trans and non binary people are often met with a blank stare from experts who just don’t feel “qualified enough” to offer support.
So begins the long and arduous road to accessing help on the NHS, via referral to the specialist clinics whose waiting lists are often reported as stretching into years. For those who do get lucky with a swift referral to their local Gender Identity Clinic (GIC), often this is many, many miles from their home.
If a patient encounters an informed GP who wants to help, there is little to no encouragement for that healthcare professional to support the patient directly – all roads seem to point to the GIC and the knock on effect on waiting times is crippling.
Recently, one of the few resources available to GPs, to help them understand gender variance, was removed from the Royal College of GPs website, leaving even less educational resources available for doctors who are willing to help. https://www.gires.org.uk/gires-response-to-sunday-times-re-royal-college-of-general-practitioners-website/
But what if we took a different approach? GPs are healthcare experts who look after hundreds of people and manage hormone related conditions every day, from HRT to testosterone and the contraceptive pill. The treatment we are talking about is a simple gel, injection, pill or patch of the desired hormone, with an additional medicine to help suppress their natural hormone production.
Most trans people are sure about their identity and do not need a doctor to confirm what they have known for many years and yet they are made to jump through hoop after hoop to prove that their experience is genuine.
It has become acceptable for a doctor to say they don’t know, they don’t understand and they simply can’t help. How can it be the case that, when faced with a perfectly rational human being expressing the fact that they do not identify with the gender into which they were born, all of the GPs medical training and expertise appears to fly out of the window? Is it such a radical idea that trans and non-binary people should be able to access basic care from their GP?
The NHS Constitution is very clear: ‘You have the right to access certain services commissioned by NHS bodies within maximum waiting times, or for the NHS to take all reasonable steps to offer you a range of suitable alternative providers if this is not possible. The waiting times are described in the Handbook to the NHS Constitution.’
The current waiting time target is 18 weeks, so if you are trans and you have waited longer than 18 weeks, then the NHS should offer you an alternative. This could be private care or care abroad.
Our petition calling for urgent interim care is now more important than ever. We already have 7,000 signatures and we are appealing to the trans and non binary community and its allies to stand together and to make the fair and equal treatment of gender variant people a priority in the UK.
If anyone would like to put their voices together to ask NHS England what alternatives they will provide to people who have waited for more than 18 weeks, then please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org
Together we will fight for the rights of trans and non-binary people to have equal access to healthcare.