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As the hearing of Dr Helen Webberley gets underway, we’ve been reflecting on the state of trans healthcare in the UK and where the responsibility for these patients lies.

Time and again we have seen what happens when an individual doctor (providing they are not paralysed by fear, bias, prejudice) takes responsibility for their trans patient: they are reported to the GMC.

Russell Reid – One of the United Kingdom’s foremost experts on gender identity disorder was found guilty of serious professional misconduct, although he not struck off, and had conditions imposed on his practice by the General Medical Council. The complaints against Dr Reid were lodged by a former patient and by four psychiatrists from the Charing Cross gender clinic, where Dr Reid worked until 1990.

Richard Curtis – One of the leading doctors advising transgender people in the UK was cleared after almost four years under investigation into alleged professional misconduct, with his GMC case being dropped just days before his hearing was due to take place.

Mike Webberley – The General Medical Council (GMC) suspended Dr. Mike Webberley, the sole provider of care for 1,600 transgender patients, after he took over from Dr Helen Webberley when she was placed under investigation by the GMC. The experience and the associated impact on his health, led to his early retirement after an impeccable 30 year career.

Along with Dr Helen Webberley, he is the fourth UK gender-affirming doctor to be subject to GMC restrictions.

 

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So if the doctor cannot support their patient, who can?

  • The patient themselves? Outside of trans healthcare informed consent is the optimal model of care – why should that be different for trans people?
  • The GMC? They set the standards of educational needs training. But in this case they have failed to do so. There is no formal training programme, no qualification, no inclusion on the Royal College Curriculae, no undergraduate training, no postgraduate training.
  • The CQC? Whose role is to ensure that services are safe, caring, effective, well-led and responsive. Unless it is in relation to trans healthcare in which case they fail to take effective action.
  • The NHS? Whose role is to provide timely access to safe and effective care, and to make sure there are evidence-based guidelines to inform best practice – unless it’s for trans folk, in which case the rules don’t apply.
  • The lawyer? Whose role is to ensure the laws protect the patients, to keep them safe and have equal treatment. But they are failing by forgetting the battles that have been won and lost, like Gillick.

This question MUST be answered, without anyone being held to account, how can access to trans healthcare ever be equitable?

 

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Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash