After sending our letter to Interim NHS Digital Chief Executive Simon Bolton we received a swift response from the NHS Digital team. Led by Richard Ashcroft, they welcomed us reaching out and invited us to discuss in more detail some of the matters raised in our letter. To date they have been open and keen to discuss ideas aimed at improving accessibility to their digital services for those in Trans & Gender Diverse communities.
We will continue to update this post as and when we have news to share.
NHS Digital recently announced that it is now possible for patients to access the NHS e-Referral Service via the NHS app. The new feature allows users to book, check, change and cancel their first hospital or clinic outpatient appointment as needed – but does it go far enough to support trans patients who have been referred?
The NHS app is aimed at making life easier for the millions who access the NHS for their general healthcare needs. There is no doubt that the app has a real world and practical benefit, particularly for trans service users who can sometimes find having to phone or visit a GP surgery fraught with difficulties.
Sign up is fairly easy, although to truly get the most out of the app the user will need to ‘Prove their identity’.
This can either be done by either:
- Uploading Photo ID, not always the easiest option for many trans people.
- Providing details of any online services they have registered with through their GP.
However, while it is possible to access useful, trans-friendly guidance, such as how to get help for Gender Dysphoria, and accessing and changing GP appointments in this way are no doubt a significant step forward, it is unclear as to whether appointments and referrals to Gender Identity Clinics [GIC] or Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) are included as part of the new e-referral feature.
With so much potential for the app to make a real difference to the experiences of trans individuals navigating years-long waiting lists, we have written to NHS Digital for clarification on this matter. In the event that the referral needs of trans patients are not being addressed directly, we have asked for clarity on the time frame for when this information might be included.
It is hugely encouraging to see the NHS embracing technology in this way but it has to go further if it is to help with tackling the years-long waiting times that trans patients are currently having to navigate and which will make a significant difference to their wellbeing.
Copy of the letter sent to to NHS Digital
I am writing to you on behalf of GenderGP, further to the announcement that it is now possible for patients to access the NHS e-Referral Service via the NHS app.
As an organisation supporting the trans community, we very much welcome this development which will no doubt allow all patients more control over their appointments.
It was, however, unclear in the announcement whether referrals to Gender Identity Clinics [GIC] or the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) can also be managed via the app?
If the app does enable trans patients to manage appointments to these clinics we welcome this as an important step in improving access to affirmative healthcare. Many of our own patients are on GIC or GIDS waiting lists and this development has a real potential to make their lives easier – something which we are all, no doubt, committed to.
Perhaps there’s an opportunity to provide a trans-friendly guide on how to best use the feature? We would be more than happy to support with any insights from our service users in creating this, if that would be of use.
If the option isn’t currently available to trans service users, we’d very much welcome more information on the roadmap and timescales involved in ensuring transgender patients are able to manage their GIC and GIDS appointments via the e-referrals service – alongside every other service user.
Transparency of services is of the utmost importance and we believe that features like this are important in the drive to significantly reduce the years-long waiting lists that trans patients are faced with when accessing affirming healthcare through the NHS.
We look forward to receiving an update on plans for this patient population and to sharing this information with our service users.
Chief Communications Officer