Like a huge and unwieldy behemoth, the NHS is finally trying to get its act together and negotiate its way around the plight of transgender patients. However services are already stretched to the limit, with waiting lists getting longer and demand higher. A recent spate of media coverage and of course Eddie Redmayne’s superlative performance in ‘The Danish girl’ has brought transgender issues back into the limelight.
The recent BBC report highlights some of the problems with transgender patients currently having to wait over 18 months for new appointments in gender clinics (GICs), with 8 clinics receiving over 4500 new referrals a year and demand increasing by 25 – 30% annually. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-35605956). The current wait for surgical reassignment is now over 3 and a half years, no wonder many transgender patients are seeking help both privately and abroad.
The Transgender Equality Report first circulated early this year and commissioned by The House of commons Women and Quality committee, found that:
‘the NHS is letting down trans people, with too much evidence of an approach that can be said to be discriminatory and in breach of the Equality Act’’ and also ‘that trans people encounter significant problems in using general NHS services due to the attitude of some clinicians and other staff when providing care for trans patients’.
It summarised that most GPs are inadequately trained, that the NHS is failing in its legal duty and also that children and adolescents who are pre or peri pubertal are particularly vulnerable to the lack of duty of care from the NHS, with some of them going to huge expense in travelling to USA in order to get their puberty- blockers and opposite-sex hormones.
Probably the most telling quote in the BBC report came from Jenny Bishop from the Manchester-based transforum health group, who said that the GICs were all well and good for those patients who are struggling with their identity, but for the average person who knows exactly what their identity is ‘we just need a doctor with specialist knowledge’ so that ‘the person could be referred for treatment and just get on with their lives’.
Advice on how to broach this subject with your GP can be gained from Dr Webberley