The NHS must fulfil its duty to young people
“Doctors and experts all over the world agree on the healthcare that I and other trans people need. But in this country, it is impossible to get access to this care.”
These are the words of a transgender teenager who is on a waiting list for the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) and may well have to wait for up to four years. The NHS commissions GIDS to provide specialist assessment, consultation and care for children and young people to help reduce the distressing feelings of a mismatch between their assigned sex and their gender identity.
The NHS has a legal obligation to see those referred to GIDS within 18 weeks. But the average waiting time is 18 months. In some shocking reports, young people are waiting for up to four years for a first appointment. Not to get what the NHS describes as fully reversible puberty blockers but to begin the process of being assessed for eligibility for puberty blockers.
Children are losing the opportunity to be seen within a window in which they can secure effective treatment. They are, in practice, being denied access to treatments which are correlated with improved mental health and reduced suicide risk.
Whatever your views about the right treatment regime for young people with gender dysphoria, it can’t be right that they face lengthy waiting lists just to have a first appointment with a specialist. That’s why Good Law Project and one of the teenagers affected have written to NHS England to give them an opportunity to make a concrete and meaningful commitment to meet their statutory duty to young people. If they don’t, we will issue legal proceedings. We believe we have a very compelling legal case – and that is why we are also publishing our legal advice, from leading specialists David Lock QC and Jason Pobjoy.
We also want to put power into the hands of the young people affected by these intolerable delays. If they notify the Tavistock and Portland Foundation Trust (the NHS Trust that provides GIDS) of the delay to their treatment, they trigger a legal duty on NHS England to “take all reasonable steps” to ensure that they are offered an appointment with a suitable alternative provider. We have published a template letter individuals can use.
The bleak reality, the data shows, is that if you are transgender or non-binary in Britain today you will face daily injustice, discrimination, and violence. It’s time to push back. We, at Good Law Project, want to do what we can to help trans and non-binary people live their lives free from inequality. To that end, we have launched the Legal Defence Fund for Transgender lives.
The legal challenge to ensure NHS England meets its obligation to children and young people will be our first case of many to protect this most disadvantaged – and discriminated against – of communities.
We will stand with our trans friends.
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