Funding to stop patients waiting years for gender identity treatment

Some people waited 35 months between being referred and getting their first appointment.

Funding to stop patients waiting years for gender identity treatment iStock

The government has announced £9m to tackle “systemic issues” with NHS gender identity services in Scotland.

The funds, allocated over three years, come as referrals in Scotland have increased in recent years.

As more people seek treatment, waiting times have also got longer, with some experiencing gaps of three years between being referred and getting their first appointment.

The Scottish Government plans aim to reduce the “serious impact” on the mental health of trans people that lengthy waiting times cause.

NHS gender identity treatment will be brought under national waiting times standards. Although the health service has failed to meet the targets in other areas, including cancer treatment and A&E.

LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall welcomed the framework.

A spokesperson said: “Trans healthcare has long been in crisis, with waiting times from referral to first appointment at NHS gender identity services in Scotland often exceeding three years.

“We’ve been calling for the systemic issues with NHS gender identity services to urgently be redressed at a national level through Scottish Government intervention.”

Demand on gender identity clinics in Scotland has increased and services were further impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The National Gender Identity Clinical Network for Scotland found that in early 2021 some patients had waited 35 months from referral for their first appointment.

Public health minister Maree Todd said: “We want to reduce the unacceptable waits to access gender identity services and provide sustainable services and support.”

The funding will be made available to develop and test multidisciplinary models for delivering gender identity healthcare and for clinics to establish new approaches to address their current waiting lists.

As well as bringing services within national waiting times standards, the framework will see a national young person’s service set up, and restart work on looking into surgical provision in Scotland.

Lorna Slater, minister and Scottish Green Party co-leader, said: “Lengthy waiting times for trans people has a serious impact on their mental health.

“This framework will improve services for a community that is often marginalised. We must continue to include the voices and expertise of trans people, as well as clinicians, academics, NHS Boards and LGBTI organisations in the work to improve these services.”

Scottish Trans Alliance manager Vic Valentine welcomed the framework and the funding which they said was “desperately needed”.

“Trans people deserve to live happy, healthy lives, and to have access to the healthcare we need to make this possible,” they said.

“We look forward to contributing to work to transform these services, and in particular to the Scottish Government ensuring that trans people truly are at the heart of decisions made to do so – something that is absolutely crucial to making sure that this framework delivers on its aims.”

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