HSE to establish new gender-affirming healthcare service in Ireland

While welcoming the long-term plans for gender-affirming healthcare services, TENI highlighted the need for more immediate action.

This article is about plans by the HSE for a new gender-affirming healthcare service. In the photo, a march with people holding a banner in the trans flag colours that reads
Image: Hazel Coonagh

The Health Service Executive (HSE) is planning to develop a new, entirely domestic model of gender-affirming healthcare in Ireland, Chief Clinical Officer Colm Henry has announced.

On February 21, the executive management committee of the HSE was presented with a report on the topic of gender-affirming healthcare. Following the meeting, a multi-disciplinary team will now be established to work on a new model of care. The HSE is hoping to participate in a collaborative, international research programme to develop such a model.

According to reports, Dr Henry said: “We intend that the team will be led by a clinician from a relevant specialty, whose role will be to lead this process, ensuring widespread stakeholder engagement”.

“We will be, through my office, be establishing a new model of care, a multidisciplinary model of care, covering primary, secondary and tertiary services, to update and replace [the existing model of care],” he continued. “The objective is to have an entirely domestic service.”

The current model of gender-affirming healthcare in Ireland has been widely criticised by trans activists, who have condemned the 10-year waiting lists and the intrusive and discriminatory process for accessing care. Moreover, many Irish children looking to access gender-affirming care currently have to be referred to clinics in the UK. Last October, the organisation Transgender Europe (TGEU) published a study showing that Ireland ranked lowest in the EU for its overall status of trans-specific healthcare.

Commenting to GCN about the HSE’s plans, Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) said: “TENI welcomes HSE’s long-term plans to establish an entirely domestic gender affirming healthcare service for adults and under 18s in Ireland. However, more immediate solutions are required and TENI calls for action from the HSE.

“Any model of care must be in line with WHO (World Health Organisation) standards and ensuring respectful inclusion and buy-in from trans people and their communities is also crucial throughout this process”.

The announcement of the new plans comes after the HSE met last week with Dr Hilary Cass, who recently published a review into gender identity services for children and young people in the UK. In the review, Dr Cass highlighted that the UK’s model of a sole Gender Identity Development Services, delivered by the Tavistock and Portman Clinic, couldn’t appropriately meet trans people’s needs and that a more decentralised approach would be more suitable.

The review prompted the NHS in England to close the Tavistock and Portman Clinic in favour of opening two regional hubs to provide gender-affirming healthcare services. At the time that this was announced, TENI praised the plans saying: “We are cautiously optimistic that expanding the service and creating regional hubs will shorten waiting lists and create community care which will enhance holistic wrap around local services around the UK.

“TENI would be delighted to see something similar happen in Ireland. Young people and their families have been waiting a long time for an Irish child and adolescent service to be created. The post of a consultant psychiatrist to start this service has still not been filled even though the advertisement for the post went out over a year ago,” the statement continued.

“How long do our families need to wait? It is clear that our families should not and now, cannot, any longer travel to the UK for these services,” the organisation concluded.

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