On December 1st 2020, trans youth in the UK were informed that they will no longer be able to access the care they need on the NHS. Just hours after the ruling, distraught parents began sharing news on social media that long-awaited appointments for their children with gender identity clinics had been cancelled, and their gender-affirming medication withdrawn.
So where does this leave our trans youth?
Puberty blocking medication is recognised by experts worldwide as the correct treatment for young gender variant people. For these individuals, the idea of the physical changes brought about by puberty causes a huge amount of distress, leading to self harm and in the worst cases suicide. Reversible puberty blocking medication halts this process.
Despite many serious concerns being raised by the Women and Equalities Committee in 2016 about the challenges which trans people face when accessing healthcare in the UK, an alarming lack of medical education still exists. This, combined with social ignorance and institutional transphobia, continues to cause untold harm to this minority group.
Research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry reveals that when children are allowed to transition, including the use of puberty blockers, it improves their mental health.
Furthermore the American Academy of Pediatrics, which with 64,000 professional members is the most respected paediatric organisation in the world, recommends taking a “gender affirming” non judgemental approach so that: “children feel safe in a society that too often marginalizes and stigmatizes those seen as different.”
With this wealth of knowledge available at our fingertips, it is unfathomable that we should have arrived at a position where, based on the evidence presented to him, a judge’s determination results in the withdrawal of a proven treatment.
So what can be done? Gender care is no longer a super specialised area of medicine. GIDS, the service brought on by the NHS to manage this cohort of patients, has not been able to adequately support them for some time.
The UK must look to international centres of excellence to guide its clinical protocols for trans individuals and this includes the creation of the UK’s own evidence-based guidelines and education tools to support the inclusion of care for gender variant individuals into primary care.
GPs, with their expertise in the management of hormones, must take the lead on straightforward cases with a referral system for more complex patients.
We call for:
- NICE Guidelines on the treatment of transgender individuals
- Transgender healthcare to be added to the nationwide Medical School Curriculum
- An undergraduate training programme for medical students in transgender healthcare
- A Postgraduate clinical specialty in transgender healthcare
- UK published guidelines
- Mandatory training
- For trans healthcare to be included in the Royal College Postgraduate Curricula
- Country-wide Clinical Commissioning Group Guidelines to be produced
- Local GP practice adopted guidance to be developed
This request is an extension to our original petition – which amassed 24,000 signatures and counting – calling for urgent improvements to UK trans healthcare. Its contents are more relevant than ever, now that the NHS is withdrawing services rather than extending them.
Our team of experts and our connections are very willing to engage with you at every level in order to make sure that the UK comes into line with more forward thinking countries. We are at great risk of being left behind with a tragic legacy of transphobic-led policy provision.
Every single trans adult was once a trans youngster, and decisions that are made today will impact them for many years to come.
If you would like to sign our petition you can do so by clicking here
Please share widely so that we can encourage others to add their names to this important cause.
Photo by Romain Dancre on Unsplash