- Freedom of Information Request reveals just two patients were seen by Exeter GIC, The Laurels in 2020
- The clinic has 2,592 people on the waiting list
- The longest time someone has been on the waiting list is nearly six years
- At the current rate, it will take 1,296 years before the current list is cleared
Following a Freedom of Information request (FOI) sent to Exeter GIC, it has been revealed on Reddit that during the period 01/12/19 and 30/11/20, only two patients were assessed by the Laurels gender clinic.
The FOI was submitted by a service user and shared on social media, where it was picked up and posted in Reddit’s TransgenderUK channel, by someone who had “completely lost hope of receiving an appointment”, having been referred to the clinic last year.
The request revealed some shocking figures, including the fact that the current number of patients on the waiting list is 2,592 and the longest time someone has been on the waiting list in days is 2,092 – which is almost six years.
At a rate of 2 patients a year it will take 1,296 years before the current list is cleared and that doesn’t even account for new patents coming on board (495 new patients were referred in the same 12 month period).
The Laurels has defended its position by outlining that it is “one of only seven specialist NHS gender clinics within England, all of which have seen a very significant rise in referral rates over the past few years”. Alongside this increase in referral rates The Laurels also cites “particular challenges in recruiting to clinical posts, especially medical staffing which has further impacted on the service’s ability to increase capacity to attempt to meet demand.”
Marianne Oakes is the lead therapist at GenderGP, a private Health and Wellbeing Service supporting trans people of all ages, she explained: “We hear the suffering of these trans people on a daily basis. Suicidal thoughts and self harm are a very real consequence of being denied this essential care.”
“We have to listen to trans people. We have to help them. Right now, this section of society has been cut adrift from the NHS and abandoned. Anyone who tries to do something about it is shamed, silenced or worse.”
As a comparison, during the same 12 month period GenderGP recorded the following:
- New contacts to the service for advice on their gender – 5,109
- Number of people starting medical treatment – 2,163
- Number of patents then moved over to NHS care – 238
Oakes continued: “When it comes to trans healthcare, sadly the NHS can in no way be considered a gold standard – indeed it is a long way off being so. The lack of education and training for UK doctors, nurses and counsellors has sadly left the care of a large number of patients in the hands of a small number of clinicians. This has had repercussions in terms of outdated protocols, failing standards and long waiting lists. As can be seen by the recently published outcome of the CQC review into the standards of care delivered by the UK provider of youth services.”
One solution, according to GenderGP’s website, is for gender care to be brought into Primary Care. GPs have all the expertise and knowledge of hormone manipulation needed to treat straightforward cases. The challenge is that they are not supported in doing so. Additional expertise can be delivered by gender specialist teams, such as those at GenderGP.
Despite the NHS clearly stating that, ‘Gender specialists may be from many different clinical backgrounds, some specialising in mental health: psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors or therapists, but they may also be GPs, endocrinologists, nurses etc.’ GPs do not know where they stand.
In a letter from Susan Goldsmith of the GMC written to the BMA in 2016, she wrote: ‘we do not believe that providing care for patients with gender dysphoria is a highly specialised treatment area requiring specific expertise.’
Yet doctors are still reluctant to help.
Dr Helen Webberley, Founder of GenderGP added: “It’s the public and regulatory mixed messages that are exacerbating the problem. Trans healthcare has become so politicised that doctors seem afraid to affirm their patients.”
To give GPs the confidence to help their trans patients, GenderGP has pulled together all of the available evidence to establish whether healthcare practitioners can help their patients in Primary and Secondary Care. The guide, Transgender health: Helping your trans patient to live their life more easily, is available as a free download from the organisation’s website. This guide looks at current UK advice and guidance and asks the question: Are UK GPs able and allowed to provide this care?
“The hope, concludes Webberley, is that the GenderGP guide will help to empower healthcare practitioners to do what they do best – treat the patient according to need and alleviate suffering.”