British government accused of 'mishandling' trans healthcare

Thursday, 3 January 2019 18:28 GMT

ARCHIVE PHOTO: A doctor holds her stethoscope in an outpatients ward at a hospital in west London April 4, 2011. REUTERS/Toby Melville

Image Caption and Rights Information
Transgender people report waiting up to two years for appointments at specialist gender identity clinics

By Rachel Savage

LONDON, Jan 3 (Openly) - Transgender people in Britain called for more equal access to public healthcare on Thursday, saying they faced long waits for help in transitioning, after a senior politician said the government had "mishandled" trans issues.

Some reported waiting up to two years for an appointment at a specialist gender identity clinic, while others said they were refused altogether.

Aimee Challenor came out as transgender at 16 and was referred to a clinic that treats children, but said she had to wait almost two years to be transferred to a clinic for transgender adults when she turned 18.

"You get increasingly panicked over, 'Is this care going to be in place, it is going to continue?'" Challenor told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Thursday.

Now 21, she said she subsequently self-medicated using the hormone oestrogen and a testosterone suppressive for nine months in 2017.

Under current law, trans people need a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria and proof of having lived in their new gender for at least two years to legally change their gender.

The comments came after Maria Miller, who chairs the women and equalities committee in the British parliament's lower house, accused the government of prioritising political issues over practical ones like access to public services.

"I think they have mishandled their approach to trans issues," she told the Press Association media agency on Wednesday.

"Many trans people simply don't have access to the basic healthcare that the rest of us take for granted," she added, saying some transgender men had been unable to get cervical smear tests.

Two in five trans people said they had encountered healthcare staff who did not understand their needs, according to a 2018 survey by British LGBT+ charity Stonewall.

Challenor said she was concerned she might experience what she called "trans broken arm syndrome" if she had to see a different doctor to her usual one for issues not related to her gender transition.

"You go in with a broken arm and they go, 'But what about your hormones?'" she said.

Teacher Debbie Hayton said she had received psychiatric support within 18 weeks of asking for help in 2012. But she was not referred for gender surgery for two years and it was another two years before she actually got the surgery.

"The unprecedented rise in demand was not being addressed at all," she said.

Referrals to clinics that specialise in treating transgender adults have increased 240 percent in five years, James Palmer, the medical director for specialised services at NHS England, said at a conference in June 2018.

Parents of transgender children have reported "mixed" experiences with local doctors, said Susie Green, chief executive of trans youth charity Mermaids, which conducted a survey of 76 parents and young people.

Some parents had doctors refuse to refer their children to specialist clinics. However, one parent reported receiving "excellent support", Green said.

(Reporting by Rachel Savage @rachelmsavage; Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit

Openly is an initiative of the Thomson Reuters Foundation dedicated to impartial coverage of LGBT+ issues from around the world.

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.