‘Make the care of your patient your first concern.’
Dr Faye Kirkland is a practicing GP and a journalist. In early 2019, she interviewed me about the state of trans healthcare in the UK, for BBC’s Panorama.
The programme was not my first foray into the media. I had been interviewed many times but I felt this could be different. Here was a real opportunity to highlight the plight faced by trans people in the UK to a journalist who was also a practicing GP. I would be able to lay out the facts in the hope that she could use her position as an investigative journalist to enforce awareness and change.
As part of her research, she would have the chance to speak to transgender patients, parents and youngsters in real time, hear it from their own mouths. She would examine NHS protocol, procedure and waiting times through the eyes of a doctor, and hear about the impact which that had on patients’ lives. On review of the evidence she would see what I had seen, travesty, injustice and prejudice.
My explanation was open and honest and I showed her evidence of:
- The challenges facing trans people of all ages in the UK
- How thousands of people have to wait years for help, with no assistance
- That this often leads them to self-medicate without medical supervision
- The end result of anxiety, stress, depression, self harm and in the worst cases suicidal ideation and activity
We discussed the fact that there are no UK published medical guidelines. I highlighted research cited by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), the Endocrine Society Guidelines and newly published guidance from the USA and Australia. All of these sources pointed to clear medical evidence that the best outcomes for trans youth come with acceptance and support.
When the episode of Panorama finally aired, it quickly became apparent that all of my arguments had fallen on deaf ears. I saw no sign of the shared compassion I had hoped for, no true understanding of the impact which the current situation with the NHS would have on the wellbeing of this cohort, no acknowledgement of the desperation in which they find themselves or indeed the need for viable and compassionate options such as GenderGP.
Instead of highlighting best practice and evidence-based medicine, Dr Kirkland chose to cite a medical study on puberty blockers given to 25 sheep.
Fast forward 20 months to last week, when GenderGP was once again contacted by Dr Kirkland (30.09.20).
This time the organisation was being asked for its cooperation on yet another investigation being carried out into service providers who support trans people. GenderGP was in the firing line together with Mermaids, for signposting desperate parents to affirmative services.
Now that the interview has aired, I feel it is imperative that I directly address some of the key points made in the investigation:
- Faye Kirkland’s privileged position as a BBC journalist and doctor, mean she is perfectly placed to expose what is fundamentally wrong with trans healthcare in the UK but instead of looking at the root cause: the failure of the NHS to do its job properly, she has chosen to target services which are dedicated to supporting trans people.
- Dr Kirkland has openly admitted that she has viewed private posts in a social media forum. This will have been without the consent of those taking part in the conversation.
- Mermaids is a charity which supports young people and their families, the service exists because these people have nowhere else to go. Mermaids do not signpost to any particular service, the attack on them was aimed at preventing parents from having free speech.
- Gender GP is mentioned by parents in private forums as it is the ONLY affirmative option supporting trans youth within the UK.
- While Dr Kirkland is keen to make the point that both Drs Helen and Mike Webberley have been suspended, she fails to mention that this suspension is temporary, pending an investigation into their work providing healthcare to the trans community. This “investigation” has now dragged on for five years, and we seem no closer to any concrete resolution.
- Trans healthcare in the UK is a travesty. By failing to acknowledge the plight faced by trans people trying to access gender-affirming healthcare in the UK, doctors are complicit in the harm that is being caused
- The waiting list for GIDS – the only NHS service treating trans youth in the UK is currently 2 1/2 years to first appointment and rising, and there is no clear action to address this by NHS England. This is inhumane and unacceptable.
- Our duty of care as a doctor is to our patient.
I am more than happy to engage in any media interview that may tackle the issue of the provision of care for trans people, however, as an organisation we will not be part of any piece that is intended to obstruct or demonise this area of healthcare.
If you have any further questions please contact GenderGP via the Help Centre and a member of the team will aim to respond within 24 hours.