In late November, Sky News investigated the state of trans healthcare in the UK, as part of its OffLimits series. The programme looked to answer one crucial question:
Why are so many trans people embarking on their transition without medical supervision?
You can watch the episode in full here: https://youtu.be/2u9LvCiB90M
The programme looked at current waiting times on the NHS which were quoted as averaging out at two years, with the worst case being the Northampton Gender Identity Clinic (GIC) at 3.5 years.
Many members of the GenderGP community took to social media to point out that, in reality, this figure can stretch to five years – and that is only for the first appointment, which is still a long way from seeing a consultant.
It’s no wonder that those who do want treatment feel they need to take matters into their own hands, as Transgender Healthcare Expert, Dr Ruth Pearce (@NotRightRuth), explained:
“Self medication can be unsafe and it can lead to harm but, given the alternative harm of doing nothing, people will continue taking risks until better, publicly funded trans health resources are available.” She went on to explain: “The problem with self medication is that there are associated health risks and these need monitoring by someone with the relevant medical expertise.”
Indeed, it was this need for a safe alternative to self medicating that inspired Dr Helen Webberley to set up GenderGP back in 2015.
In its role as the only provider of interim healthcare to trans people of all ages, GenderGP was put under the spotlight. The programme makers spoke to Hunter Powers, a member of the GenderGP community, who shared his journey, highlighting the lifesaving role which the service played when he was in desperate need.
Dr Helen Webberley, also took part in the programme. She feels that trans people shouldn’t have to go private to access the care they are entitled to receive on the NHS. However, she explained, waiting lists are simply too long to expect people to put their lives on hold while the GICs play catch up. She added:
“While people are waiting for an appointment – two years, four years and more – they are suffering. More often than not, this distress is all consuming, preventing them from moving forward with their lives. We hear it all the time from people who come to GenderGP. And these are the fortunate ones. In the worst cases, we see very high rates of self harm and suicide among this group because it is the waiting that is the cause of so much dysphoria.”
The investigative journalist summarised the piece by saying:
“If action isn’t taken to reduce the time patients are forced to wait to receive assessment and treatment, it’s possible that there will be more cases of self medication, poor mental health and tragedy in the near future.”
Gender variant people are faced with a Hobson’s choice, with the seemingly endless wait for treatment on the one hand and unsupervised self-medication on the other. GenderGP represents a third option of supervised, affordable, private medical care which provides safe access to monitoring, legitimate medication and expertise, to ensure patients don’t have to risk their health by going it alone.
It is estimated that there are 500,000 trans people living in the UK, and this figure is believed to be conservative. Until a model of informed consent, such as that followed by GenderGP, is recognised, queues at GICs will continue to grow, with people turning to self medication while they wait.
Trans people have the right to timely care and GenderGP is campaigning for change.
- To find out what you can do to help click here: https://www.gendergp.com/how-you-can-help-us-improve-transgender-healthcare-in-wales/
- To add your voice to the more than 15,000 people who have already signed our petition, click on the following link: https://www.change.org/p/transgender-healthcare-services-in-the-uk-are-broken-urgent-improvements-are-needed
- To find out more about what can be done to revolutionise care for trans people on the NHS click here: https://www.gendergp.com/revolutionising-nhs-care/
If you have been affected by the contents of this bog post and would like to speak to someone please visit our Help Centre and reach out to our team of gender specialists.