Referrals for Gender Identity Clinic services in Scotland have soared, according to NHS bosses.
According to the National Gender Identity Clinical Network for Scotland (NGICNS), demand for adult referrals is up over 30% year on year. Referrals for young people are up over 80%.
The demand, coming from Health Boards across the country, has led to waiting times being increased from around 7 months for a first appointment, to over 12 months in some cases today.
The shocking statistics come as NHS gender service managers and clinicians held their Annual General Meeting this week in Glasgow. The meeting, with around 50 trans and non-binary patients and activists taking part, heard from Dr David Gerber, Lead Clinician for NGICNS and Catriona Renfrew, Director of Corporate Planning & Policy at NHS.
As part of the transition process, patients who wish to change their gender will likely need medical intervention for hormone treatment and sometimes surgery. These hormones and other drugs which are necessary in transitioning, cannot be issued by GP’s and require specialist referral before they can be prescribed.
The meeting heard direct experiences of trans and non-binary patients waiting on referrals and the issues they face even once they have met with medical professionals. This included issues in the provision of wigs and in receiving hormone blockers for young people going through puberty, issues where updated guidance has been sent to all Scottish Health Boards. It remains the decision of the 14 regional health boards how they prioritise gender identity services in their area.
Services are mainly delivered for the whole of Scotland from 4 GIC clinics – Sandyford in Glasgow, Chalmers Street in Edinburgh, Raigmore Hospital in Inverness and at the Aberdeen Health Village. Health officials at the meeting confirmed there had been “patchy” delivery at times due to staffing issues over the past 12 months.
During the meeting, several people asked if the NHS needed more funding to create the capacity to meet demand, although Catriona Renfrew stated “this is not a funding issue”. The time to train specialist surgeons and clinicians is thought to be one of the reasons behind the challenging waiting times.
Dr David Gerber outlined to the meeting that NGICNS had delivered gender training and guidance to 120 GP’s in the past 12 months, around 3% of the estimated 4460 GP’s operating in Scotland.
The meeting also heard from the Scottish Government about plans to hold a public consultation in 2017 on the SNP manifesto commitment to update the Gender Recognition Act 2004. Several parties made promises to alter the law to make better provisions for trans people and specifically non-binary and intersex people.
Pink Saltire have commissioned an original short film, by trans filmmaker Kate Adair, on the personal experiences of trans and non-binary people in Scotland using the NHS. Working in partnership with Scottish Transgender Alliance, the film will premiere on 9th September.
Pink Saltire will be carrying an exclusive interview with Catriona Renfrew and Dr David Gerber in early September.
Written by Stuart Duffy