Only one of the UK’s Gender Identity Clinics (GIC) average waiting times is meeting the required NHS wide 18-week referral time from GP to an appointment.
A joint investigation by trans activists and Gay Star News reveals the most up-to-date figures.
They show in England and Scotland all of the clinics are missing the binding 18-week maximum as set out in the NHS constitution.
It’s nearly a year since a December 2016 decision clarified that GICs are subject to the NHS wide 18-week referral target. NHS trusts who miss key target can be subject to fines.
The only clinic that has an average waiting time meeting the target in the UK is Northern Ireland’s Brackenburn service. Though even they have a range that sees those waiting for referrals seeing up to a 60-week wait.
The longest wait is in Daventry, their 130-week average means people are waiting over two years.
Human rights campaigner Fox Fisher is one of the activists we worked with to publish the data. They believe these waiting times are completely unacceptable.
‘With these waiting times, hate, stigma, terrible and volatile media coverage, it’s no wonder up to 48% of trans youth have attempted suicide,’ they tell GSN. ‘We’re failing trans people.’
Adding that these average waiting times are only part of a much worse picture.
‘Trans people have often been waiting for years to be themselves before they actually take the step of ordering an appointment. This leads to so many people seeking other measures such as going private as they just cannot wait.’
Responding to the collated waiting times an NHS England spokesperson says:
‘Demand for gender identity services has risen sharply in recent years as more people feel able to come forward for support and funding for services has been increased to reflect this. The NHS continues to work with those who provide gender identity services to reduce their waiting times as quickly as possible.’
This is a full list of the waiting times correct at publishing on November 2nd:
- Tavistock and Portman in London: 52 weeks
- Sandyford in Scotland: 35 – 43 weeks for 11-14-year-olds and 52 weeks for 15-16-year-olds.
- Daventry: 130 weeks
- Charing Cross: 60 weeks
- Leeds: 70 weeks
- Devon: 78 weeks
- Nottingham:78 weeks
- Sheffield: 51 weeks
- Newcastle: Told us they were unable to share this data, but the most recent number available is 52 weeks*
- Sandyford (allows self-referral for anyone in Scotland and Inverness clinic): 52 weeks
- Chalmers, Edinburgh (only allows NHS Lothian, Borders, or Fife areas and Aberdeen once a month): Most recent FOI shows a wait of 30 weeks. But a recent statement on their website indicates a ‘long wait.’
- Brackenburn: From 2 to 60 weeks with an average of 13 weeks*
The data has been sourced from the GIC NHS Trust’s websites and press requests where it is not published.
*As cited in Transgender Health: A practical guide to treating binary and non-binary trans patients gathered in June 2017.
And this is only part of the picture
Sophie Rebecca has just received an appointment from her GIC – and doesn’t recognize our numbers at all. For her, the numbers we published seem too short. She had to wait 38 months – just over 3 years for an appointment. She finally had one in May this year.
‘I’d be suspicious of them. I bet I’m not the only one over double the official numbers.’
Indeed, author of forthcoming book ‘Transgender Health’ Dr. Ben Vincent says this is because ‘they are only averages, so they are not even indicative of the extremes of the lengths people have to wait.’
Vincent says part of the problem is GICs have a ‘complete lack of staff.’ However, his book offers a solution to the long waiting times.
‘Currently, every trans person who wants any kind of intervention has to go to a GIC – ranging from hormones to surgery. When in reality, hormone assessment and prescription could be done by GPs in the vast majority of cases.
‘Ultimately even now the prescriber is always the GP, the GIC just gives a recommendation.’
The NHS is currently consulting on whether they should make this change. Vincent says, ‘if they do this, the burden will lift tremendously.’
Young people are suffering
As with many NHS services, young people have a different clinic. In England, they will be referred to Tavistock and Portman in Charing Cross, London. Here the waiting time is at least a year, meaning a wait over 30 weeks past the target. In Scotland, the Sandyford clinic ranges from 35 to 52 weeks, depending on the age of the young person.
Susie Green CEO of the trans youth charity Mermaids tells GSN, they are very aware of the long waits.
‘We know that NHS England has been working to try to combat this, and the Tavistock and Sandyford have reported record increases of referrals. We have seen the increased investment that has been made and note the challenges that bringing on and training new staff in such a specialist area entail.
‘But we hear daily from older teens with their frustrations and concerns. For them, the light at the end of the tunnel seems to be getting further away. Waiting lists for help from the NHS clinics are just growing so quickly right now.’