Gender clinic in UK assessed just two trans patients in one year

The Laurels gender clinic in Exeter was forced to reveal data about their waitlist and assessments due to a Freedom of Information request.

A clinic waiting room

Following a freedom of information request by a service user, the Laurels Gender Identity Clinic in Exeter revealed that they assessed only two patients from the start of December 2019 to the end of November 2020. It was also revealed that the centre has 2,592 patients currently on their waiting list for a first appointment.

The response to the freedom of information request was posted in Reddit’s TransgenderUK channel, by a patient on the waiting list for the Laurels gender clinic, saying they’ve “completely lost hope of receiving an appointment.” The author of the post also argued that a lack of transparency was a problem; “the fact that it took a FOI request to get this info out of them speaks for itself”.

At the rate of two patients per year, it would take the Exeter clinic 1,296 years to process the current backlog, not including the arrival of new patients. In the same 12-month period that two patients were assessed, 450 new patients joined the waiting list.

The NHS constitution states that patients have a right to “start your consultant lead treatment within a maximum of 18 weeks from referral for non-urgent conditions” or “for the NHS to take all reasonable steps to offer a range of alternative providers if this is not possible.”

Despite this, the freedom of information request revealed that the longest time someone has been on the Laurels waitlist to date is nearly six years. Marianne Oakes, the lead therapist at private trans healthcare service GenderGP commented on the situation, saying that trans people have “been cut adrift from the NHS and abandoned”.

In response to the length of waiting lists, the Laurels highlighted that they are “one of only seven specialist NHS gender clinics within England, all of which have seen a very significant rise in referral rates over the past few years”

One solution that has been suggested is for transgender healthcare to be brought into primary services. According to GenderGP, GP’s have the expertise and knowledge of hormone manipulation needed to treat standard cases but are not supported in doing so.

Youtuber Abigail Thorne, recently took to Twitter making a similar point. She argued that even if there were no waiting lists, she “shouldn’t have to attend a segregated clinic to get the same medicine (e.g. HRT) that cis people can get from a GP”.

There are similar problems in Ireland, where trans patients face years-long waiting lists for treatment. Accessibility of healthcare is a particular concern for trans children, especially in the light of recent announcements that the HSE was ending child and adolescent care for young trans people, and furthermore, that Irish children were being re-referred to a ‘new service’ that doesn’t yet exist.

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