Local Healthwatch around the country have reported that a high proportion of people seeking gender reassignment services are subject to long delays for consultation and surgery.
When people shared similar concerns with Healthwatch Devon, they decided to find out more.
Over 140 people across the county contacted their local Healthwatch to share their experiences of seeking help for gender identity issues. This information allowed Healthwatch Devon to identify three key issues, which they then shared with those in charge of identity services in the Devon.
Three key issues people shared
1. Long waiting times
People said that the process of getting help can feel like it takes a lot longer that it should. They shared experiences of letters not being sent out in time, administration mistakes and overburdened teams – all which caused delays. People also said that they felt that there were not enough surgeons to meet the demand, which meant further delays in treatment.
2. Inconsistent information and communications
Some individuals said that they had found a lack of up-to-date information available about the referral process to a gender identity clinic and, as a result, they could feel abandoned and lost.
3. Health professionals and support staff are not aware of trans issues
People reported a lack of understanding from health professionals and support staff throughout the process from GPs to surgical staff. People's experiences with their GPs were mixed. Some individuals said their GPs were understanding, supporting and welcoming while others reported their GPs as obstructive or unwilling to make appropriate referrals. People felt that GPs found it hard to support them because they did not understand about the rights and status of transgender people.
Healthwatch Devon shared what people had told them with those who are in charge of commissioning and providing gender identity services in the Devon. These findings, along with others from local Healthwatch from across the country were shared with NHS England and those responsible for commissioning services nationally. Their report included a number of recommendations that would improve people’s experiences of the process such as:
Proactive, positive and personal communications from health staff that includes information about treatment, decision making and waiting times.
Training and support for health professionals to help them be more aware of trans issues.
While people are waiting for surgery, access to non-invasive procedures such as hair removal and hormone therapy needs to be improved
Find out more about Healthwatch Devon’s work on gender identity services.