Scotland trans healthcare 'not fit for purpose' as young people on gender identity waiting lists dramatically increases

A campaigner says Scottish trans healthcare is “not fit for purpose” as the number of young people waiting to access gender identity clinics has seen a six-fold increase in six years.

Data confirmed by NHS Scotland has revealed the waiting lists for young trans people to see a gender specialist are rapidly increasing.

The number of under-18s on the waiting list on the young people’s gender service at the Sandyford Clinic has risen from 151 in 2017 to 903 this year.

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NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has said this increase and the pressure of Covid have impacted on waiting times.

The number of under 18s on the waiting list for the young people’s gender service at the Sandyford Clinic has risen from 151 in 2017 to 903 in 2022.

The only specialist service for children, the Glasgow-based clinic primarily assists people who are transgender to facilitate medical and surgical transitional treatments.

The average wait to see a clinician is currently two years and three months.

This has led to concerns over young people going online to access unregulated treatments.

The prescription of puberty blockers to suppress sex hormones will only be prescribed on the NHS by an endocrinologist following a full assessment.

Hormones such as oestrogen or testosterone are only prescribed in Scotland from the age of 16.

Ellie Gomersall, the Scottish Young Greens chair who is a 22-year-old trans woman, said the model of trans healthcare in Scotland was “not fit for purpose”.

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She said: "I've personally been on the waiting list for an initial appointment for 42 months as of February 2022, and it seems I still have many more months to wait, even once I do have an initial appointment, it will likely be years before I actually receive the care I need.

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"For many young people on the waiting lists, their bodies may be irreversibly changed by puberty before they are able to be seen, which can cause massive distress.”

Scotland's chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith has ordered a review of Scotland's gender reassignment protocol, acknowledging services for transgender, non-binary and gender-diverse people require transformation.

Maggie Chapman, Scottish Greens equalities spokesperson, said: “It is vital that we provide timely and appropriate support and care for trans people, including young people under 18 who are looking for specialist gender and sexual health services.

“Reducing waiting times for trans healthcare and support was a pledge in the co-operation agreement that brought the Greens into government, and we are working to ensure we deliver on this.

“The surge in numbers of young people seeking these services reflects increased awareness of what is available and supportive environments that allow people to come out.

“We must continue to work to ensure people do not face discrimination or marginalisation when seeking the services they require.”

To address waiting times and support those waiting for services, the Scottish Government plans to provide £9 million over 3 years, with £2 million in crisis funding for trans healthcare in the Budget this year.

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However, Ms Gomersall said the “whole system is broken and in desperate need of reform”.

An NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde spokesperson said: "NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has been working to restart the clinical service, including arranging appointments with those who are on the waiting list. Continued recruitment of additional staff to the service is also currently ongoing.”

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