Healthcare options for UK trans youth reach breaking point as pharmacies are targeted for providing lifesaving treatment
- UK Regulator Fails in its Duty of Care to Trans Youth
- GPhC accused of “forcing” resignation of trans inclusive superintendent pharmacist
- Action will force trans youth to access unregulated medication, putting them at risk
- Pharmacists asked to “step up” to provide much needed care
08.02.21: World leading provider of Trans Health and Wellbeing Services, GenderGP, has accused the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) of actively blocking healthcare for trans youth, following news that another UK pharmacy has been directly targeted due to its service provision to trans patients.
The “intense scrutiny” of the GPhC investigation has led to the resignation of the superintendent pharmacist and the subsequent closure of the pharmacy. This move will further limit pharmacy options for young people seeking private gender care in the UK.
The news comes as yet another body-blow to this minority group which is already suffering as a result of waiting lists that stretch into years, and barriers to care fuelled by a lack of education and what has been described as institutionalised transphobia.
Katie Tiplady-Startin, Chief Operating Officer for GenderGP explained: “We understand, from speaking to the pharmacist in question, that while they were not asked explicitly to stop dispensing to trans patients, undue pressure was placed upon them to do so. Despite having all the evidence available to support both the prescribing protocols and the need for this group to be able to access legitimate medication, it would appear that the regulator showed little regard for the facts.”
Despite public assurances from GPhC Chief Executive, Duncan Rudkin, that pharmacies would not be prevented from providing care to vulnerable trans patients, GenderGP insists these actions will have a direct impact on the ability of trans youth to access safe, legitimate medication.
This news follows the widely publicised inspection into another pharmacy providing services to trans people, in October 2020. This resulted in those under 18 no longer being able to access care from that provider, a decision that caused widespread fear and panic amongst young trans people and their loved ones.
The GPhC has criticised these pharmacies for providing services to ‘potentially vulnerable’ patients, without seemingly taking into consideration the vulnerability that comes with the withdrawal of safe, regulated medication.
Following the inspection last October, the GPhC issued a statement saying: “We want to reassure everyone that we have not asked the pharmacy to stop supplying medicines to patients undergoing treatment for gender dysphoria.”
However, the actions of the GPhC had wide-reaching implications for many trans individuals with an identified associated risk of suicidal ideation and self-harm. It also led directly to a reduction in the number of safe pharmacies available to provide services to this group.
Despite assurances from the GPhC that it would: “work with the superintendent pharmacist to make the improvements needed and to support continuity of care for the pharmacy’s patients.” and that it would signpost to other services, neither appear to have happened.
Mrs Tiplady-Startin continued: “GenderGP calls for urgent reassurance that the regulators will be held accountable for their actions. Pharmacies must feel able to provide services to trans patients without fear for their livelihoods. Trans healthcare provision must be treated with the same levels of respect and diligence as all other areas of healthcare where treatments may come under public scrutiny.”
She went on to explain that leading experts, including the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, agree that puberty suppression and subsequent gender-affirming hormones are the most widely accepted and preferred clinical approach in health services for transgender people around the world.
Mrs Tiplady-Startin continued: “How is it that world leading experts recommend the best course of treatment and the UK simply refuses to follow the guidance? This has to stop. We are talking about human beings and their access to essential care is being denied – it’s a national scandal.”
Gender reassignment is a protected characteristic under The Equality Act 2010 and unnecessary barriers to care are interpreted as an act of discrimination against this group of patients. Trans and non-binary individuals have a right to equal opportunities when it comes to comprehensive and safe care.
Mrs Tiplady-Startin concluded: “GenderGP will continue to work tirelessly to put alternative provision of care in place and we ask all pharmacists to step up to the plate to aid us in achieving this goal. We have created a pharmacy hub on our website providing professional guidance and reassurance so that pharmacists can make an informed decision and provide the care that these individuals so desperately need.”
GenderGP has written a formal complaint to the GPhC which can be read in full here.
Notes to editors:
GenderGP is an online health and wellbeing service, which provides advocacy, advice, therapeutic and medical support to members of the trans community, and those who care for them. For more information visit www.GenderGP.com.
All medication prescribed by GenderGP is in accordance with recommendations outlined in The Endocrine Society Guidelines for the Endocrine Treatment of Gender Incongruent Persons, which includes the management of adolescents.