Four years is too long to wait for treatment
England is an international outlier in trans healthcare - but sadly, not in a good way.
With just one NHS gender identity service for young people serving the whole of England, and only a handful of centres for adults, it’s almost impossible for people to get the treatment and support they are entitled to.
Legally, patients should get their first appointment at a clinic within 18 weeks of a GP referral. But hardly any do. Children are waiting on average 18 months, some as long as three years. And some adults referred in October 2017 are only just having their first appointment now - four years later. Waiting lists stretch into the thousands.
Such long waits mean trans adolescents are missing the short window of time in which puberty blockers are useful. Without them, their bodies will change in ways that they know they will have to live with for the rest of their lives.
To force teenagers to contemplate this, when a safe treatment is available which would give them breathing space to think, is unimaginably cruel. No wonder it correlates closely with increased suicide risks or self-harm. No wonder some feel they have no choice but to self-medicate with drugs purchased on the dark web.
While adults don’t face the same ‘window of opportunity’, the denial of corrective treatment restricts the lives they are able to lead and has hugely harmful consequences for mental health.
We are supporting two adults, Eva and Alex, and two young people to take cases against NHS England for these unlawful delays.
We’re asking NHS England to set out the steps they are taking to meet their legal obligation to see patients within 18 weeks. If they don’t, we will bring full proceedings.
The bottom line is waits for treatment are leading to the loss of lives and things are getting worse, not better. This cannot continue unchecked.
If you are in a position to do so, you can donate to the legal action here.