Dr Webberley is a force to be reckoned with. Since she founded GenderGP back in 2015, she has had to deal with countless transphobic barriers that prevented her from helping as many patients as possible. She dedicated her life to the trans and gender diverse community so they too can access the healthcare they deserve. Now, she is finally free to resume her work as a qualified doctor.
Dr Webberley: From being a GP to leading GenderGP
By working as a doctor in sexual health clinics and training in sexual and psychosexual medicine, Dr Helen Webberley became an expert on transgender healthcare. She realised that the UK’s healthcare system did not have trans people’s best interest at heart.
Trans patients faced discrimination on a daily basis, with a serious lack of access to gender affirming healthcare services. Healthcare professionals were invalidating trans people’s experiences, telling them that they are not trans enough when they did not conform to social gender norms. Many trans people left the appointments in tears, Dr Webberley told i news.
In 2015, she initially created a website with information on transgender care. Her web page slowly turned into a global medical service. It was her drive and passion to fight against the gatekeeping practices, long waiting times, and barely accessible trans healthcare that brought GenderGP to where it is now.
Dr Webberley’s commitment to improving transgender lives has led to GenderGP becoming one of the largest providers of gender affirming healthcare on a global level. We are currently taking care of over 10,000 patients who are based in over 40 countries.
The case against Dr Webberley and how she was vindicated
However, in 2017, her former colleagues put forward several complaints to the General Medical Council (GMC). This led to the council prohibiting her from working as a doctor. For almost six years, Dr Helen Webberley had to go through the GMC’s investigation of the complaints made against her as well as attending a Medical Practitioners Tribunal hearing.
The tribunal focused on Dr Webberley and her care for patients A (aged 17), B (aged 12), and C (aged 11). She had prescribed testosterone to patients A and B and puberty blockers to patient C. At the time, there was not enough research on the benefits of gender affirming treatment on young people. Dr Webberley was accused of ‘serious misconduct’ for not fully informing patient C about the puberty blockers’ effect on their fertility. This led to her suspension for two months.
However, in March 2023, after a long battle with the GMC, the UK High Court finally ruled in her favour and freed her of all charges. Dr Webberley’s appeal was approved. The judge explained that although she could have had a direct conversation with patient C on the fertility implications of puberty blockers, her discussion with the patient’s mother was enough to invalidate the charges against her.
Moreover, the judge Mr Justice Jay, highlighted how the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service failed to ‘wrestle with these admittedly complex issues in the correct manner’. The judge’s decision to free Dr Webberley of all charges also prevents her from having to attend any further tribunals. Dr Helen Webberley’s case is officially closed.
You can read Dr Webberley’s full statement on her appeal and the court’s key findings on our blog. In May 2023, she was also nominated for the National Diversity Awards for the Positive Role Model Award.
The state of trans healthcare in the UK
In her interview with i news, Dr Webberley discussed how the UK High Court’s decision was an ‘immense feeling of relief that washes over you’. It was a vindication of all her efforts to help the trans community. Countless patients and their families have expressed their gratitude towards Dr Webberley and the work that she does. Her vindication sends a message of reassurance to other GPs who wish to help trans people access this life-saving care.
Unfortunately, many still do not care for trans people’s lives, concerns that Dr Webberley expressed in the i news article. Some doctors believe that trans people should not be allowed to access hormones or even socially transition. It is this false notion that leads to governments passing harmful anti-trans bills and blocking important Gender Recognition reforms.
Waiting times continue to increase without an end in sight
The UK’s NHS continues to have dangerously long waiting lists. The waiting times on the NHS can take up to several years. However, NHS England is required to see almost all (92%) their patients referred to specialist healthcare services within 18 weeks. There is an immense difference between the expected target and the reality. It forces people to wait ‘extreme’ periods of time before accessing treatment.
NHS figures show that over 26,000 trans adults are waiting for their first appointment at a gender identity clinic. Just to clarify: first appointment, not treatment. As of November 2022, over 23,000 trans adults had been waiting for over 18 weeks. That is way more than the target 8%. Respectively, around 7,600 trans children are waiting to access care. More than 6,100 have been waiting longer than the promised 18 weeks.
NHS England’s failure to comply with their targeted 92% is seriously harming trans people in the UK. On average, a trans person waits almost three years for an initial appointment. Many patients wait four years or more. Mental health worsens and patients feel ‘completely let down by the system that [they] thought was there to save [them]’.
The job of the NHS and its doctors is to find the correct and timely help for each trans patient, Dr Webberley tells i news. It is about providing support and listening to trans people’s needs. Ironically, even though she faced so much backlash, no patient ever complained about Dr Webberley’s care.
However, the same cannot be said about the GPs in the UK. As Dr Webberley told PinkNews, GPs have ‘no education, exposure or training’ on gender affirming healthcare. This results in a toxic model of care where trans and gender diverse people feel invalidated and have restricted access to life-saving treatments.
Hope for the future
In an interview with PinkNews, Dr Webberley stated: ‘If just a female GP like me can prove that I can gain the skills and the knowledge and the experience to help trans adults and children … then any doctor can help, and that’s what I want’.
We truly hope that Dr Webberley’s case will resonate with other healthcare providers around the world. We hope it will empower them to support their trans patients. If other doctors offered their whole-hearted support, more trans people would be able to access the care they so desperately need. This is the world we strive for: one that is dedicated to providing adequate and timely healthcare to trans and gender diverse people.