Patients will be able to speak to gender identity clinic over Skype in radical plan to meet demand

An NHS gender identity clinic for children and young people is experimenting with Skype appointments to help meet growing demand.

The Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS), based in London and Leeds, is the only specialised service in the UK for children and young people up to 18 years old.

In recent years the service has seen an “unprecedented increase” in its number of referrals. As a result, the average waiting time for an initial appointment currently stands at between 22 and 24 months.

In an attempt to tackle these long waiting times, and to help families who face a lengthy journey to one of its clinics, GIDS is testing appointments over Skype and FaceTime.

GIDS clinic wants to eliminate long travel times for families.

The Tavistock and Portman Trust, which runs the clinic, confirmed that they are experimenting with “using digital technologies to increase efficiency and to enhance patient experience” – something it said is a key area of development throughout the NHS.

“The trust is working to minimise waiting times and make clinical support easier to access, including eliminating travel time for young people and their families, which will also allow us to offer appointments earlier and later in the day,” a spokesperson told the Mail on Sunday.

They added that virtual appointments will not replace face-to-face consultations.

“As with the rest of the NHS, innovations like telemedicine are an addition [to traditional appointments],” the spokesperson said.

“The Trust and GIDS welcome all open and informed discussion and decision-making around the best way to support young people experiencing difficulties or distress around their gender identity.”

PinkNews has contacted the Tavistock and Portman Trust for further comment.

GIDS referrals triple in four years.

In 2018/19, GIDS received around 2,500 referrals, a small increase from the year before.

However in recent years there has been an explosion in the number of young people referred to the service, with referrals doubling between 2014/15 and 2015/16 from 697 to 1419.

In July Dr Bernadette Wren, the clinic’s head of psychology, said that the rise is thought to be down to a greater awareness and acceptance of gender identity issues.

She added that GIDS is regarded as one of “the most cautious, painstaking and thoughtful” youth gender services in the world.

Fewer than half of its patients decide to have any physical treatments, she explained, adding that those that are provided with hormone blockers don’t receive any treatments until they begin puberty.